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'MISSING' 



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Deeply regret to inform you your husband reported 
wounded and missing 



'MISSING' 



BY 

MRS. HUMPHRY WARD 

Author of "Robert Elsmere," " Lady Rose's Daughter,' 
" The Mating of Lydia," etc. 



FRONTISPIECE IN COLOUR BY 

C. ALLAN GILBERT 




NEW YORK 

DODD, MEAD AND COMPANY 
1917 



COPYRIGHT, 1917 
BY DODD. MEAD AND COMPANY. IMC. 



PART I 



S375S7 



'MISSING' 



CHAPTER I 

HALL I set the tea, Miss?' 

Miss Cookson turned from the window. 
* Yes bring it up except the tea of course 
they ought to be here at any time.' 

* And Mrs. Weston wants to know what time 
supper's to be? ' 

The fair-haired girl speaking was clearly north- 
country. She pronounced the * u ' in * supper,' as 
though it were the German * u ' in Suppe. 

Miss Cookson shrugged her shoulders. 

' Well, they'll settle that.' 

The tone was sharp and off-hand. And the maid- 
servant, as she went downstairs, decided for the 
twentieth time that afternoon, that she didn't like 
Miss Cookson, and she hoped her sister, Mrs. Sar- 
ratt, would be nicer. Miss Cookson had been pok- 
ing her nose into everything that afternoon, fiddling 
with the rooms and furniture, and interfering with 
Mrs. Weston. As if Mrs. Weston didn't know what 
to order for lodgers, and how to make them com- 
fortable! As if she hadn't had dozens of brides 



2 'MISSING' 

and bridegrooms to look after before this ! and if 
she hadn't given them all satisfaction, would they 
ever have sent her all them picture-postcards which 
decorated her little parlour downstairs? 

All the same, the house-parlourmaid, Milly by 
name, was a good deal excited about this particular 
couple who were now expected. For Mrs. Weston 
had told her it had been a ' war wedding,' and the 
bridegroom was going off to the front in a week. 
Milly's own private affairs in connection with a 
good-looking fellow, formerly a gardener at Bow- 
ness, now recently enlisted in one of the Border 
regiments had caused her to take a special interest 
in the information, and had perhaps led her to put 
a bunch of monthly roses on Mrs. Sarratt's dressing- 
table. Miss Cookson hadn't bothered herself about 
flowers. That she might have done! instead of 
fussing over things that didn't concern her just for 
the sake of ordering people about. 

When the little red-haired maid had left the room, 
the lady she disliked returned to the window, and 
stood there absorbed in reflections that were not gay, 
to judge from the furrowed brow and pinched lips 
that accompanied them. Bridget Cookson was about 
thirty; not precisely handsome, but at the same time, 
not ill-looking. Her eyes were large and striking, 
and she had masses of dark hair, tightly coiled about 
her head as though its owner felt it troublesome and 
in the way. She was thin, but rather largely built, 
and her movements were quick and decided. Her 



'MISSING' 3 

tweed dress was fashionably cut, but severely without 
small ornament of any kind. 

She looked out upon a beautiful corner of English 
Lake-land. The house in which she stood was built 
on the side of a little river, which, as she saw it, came 
flashing and sparkling out of a lake beyond, lying in 
broad strips of light and shade amid green surround- 
ing fells. The sun was slipping low, and would soon 
have kindled all the lake into a white fire, in which 
its islands would have almost disappeared. But, for 
the moment, everything was plain : the sky, full of 
light, and filmy grey cloud, the fells with their min- 
gling of wood and purple crag, the shallow reach of 
the river beyond the garden, with a little family of 
wild duck floating upon it, and just below her a vivid 
splash of colour, a mass of rhododendron in bloom, 
setting its rose-pink challenge against the cool greys 
and greens of the fell. 

But Bridget Cookson was not admiring the view. 
It was not new to her, and moreover she was not in 
love with Westmorland at all; and why Nelly should 
have chosen this particular spot to live in, while 
George was at the war, she did not understand. She 
believed there was some sentimental reason. They 
had first seen him in the Lakes just before the war 
when they two girls and their father were staying 
actually in this very lodging-house. But sentimental 
reasons are nothing. 

Well, the thing was done. Nelly was married, and 
in another week, George would be at the front. Per- 



4 'MISSING 7 

haps in a fortnight's time she would be a widow. 
Such things have happened often. * And then what 
shall I do with her? ' thought the sister, irritably, 
recoiling from a sudden vision of Nelly in sorrow, 
which seemed to threaten her own life with even 
greater dislocation than had happened to it already. 

* I must have my time to myself! freedom for 
what I want ' she thought to herself, impatiently, 

* I can't be always looking after her.' 

Yet of course the fact remained that there was no 
one else to look after Nelly. They had been left 
alone in the world for a good while now. Their 
father, a Manchester cotton-broker in a small way, 
had died some six months before this date, leaving 
more debts than fortune. The two girls had found 
themselves left with very small means, and had lived, 
of late, mainly in lodgings unfurnished rooms 
with some of their old furniture and household 
things round them. Their father, though unsuccess- 
ful in business, had been ambitious in an old- 
fashioned way for his children, and they had been 
brought up * as gentlefolks ' that is to say without 
any trade or profession. 

But their poverty had pinched them disagreeably 
especially Bridget, in whom it had produced a kind 
of angry resentment. Their education had not been 
serious enough, in these days of competition, to 
enable them to make anything of teaching after their 
Father's death. Nelly's water-colour drawing, for 
instance, though it was a passion with her, was quite 



'MISSING' 5 

untrained, and its results unmarketable. Bridget 
had taken up one subject after another, and generally 
in a spirit of antagonism to her surroundings, who, 
according to her, were always ' interfering ' with 
what she wanted to do, with her serious and im- 
portant occupations. But these occupations always 
ended by coming to nothing; so that, as Bridget was 
irritably aware, even Nelly had ceased to be as much 
in awe of them as she had once been. 

But the elder sister had more solid cause than this 
for dissatisfaction with the younger. Nelly had 
really behaved like a little fool! The one family 
asset of which a great deal might have been made 
should have been made was Nelly's prettiness. She 
was very pretty absurdly pretty and had been a 
great deal run after in Manchester already. There 
had been actually two proposals from elderly men 
with money, who were unaware of the child's en- 
gagement, during the past three months ; and though 
these particular suitors were perhaps unattractive, 
yet a little time and patience, and the right man 
would have come along, both acceptable in himself, 
and sufficiently supplied with money to make every- 
thing easy for everybody. 

But Nelly had just wilfully and stubbornly fallen 
in love with this young man and wilfully and stub- 
bornly married him. It was unlike her to be stubborn 
about anything. But in this there had been no mov- 
ing her. And now there was nothing before either 
of them but the same shabbiness and penury as be- 



6 'MISSING' 

fore. What if George had two hundred and fifty 
a year of his own, besides his pay? a fact that 
Nelly was always triumphantly brandishing in her 
sister's eyes. 

No doubt it was more than most young subalterns 
had much more. But what was two hundred and 
fifty a year? Nelly would want every penny of it 
for herself and her child or children. For of 
course there would be a child 

Bridget Cookson fell into profound depths of 
thought, emerging from them, now as often before, 
with the sore realisation of how much Nelly might 
have done with her * one talent,' both for herself and 
her sister, and had not done. 

The sun dropped lower; one side of the lake was 
now in shadow, and from the green shore beneath the 
woods and rocks, the reflections of tree and crag and 
grassy slope were dropping down and down, un- 
earthly clear and far, to that inverted heaven in 
the * steady bosom ' of the water. A little breeze 
came wandering, bringing delicious scents of grass 
and moss, and in the lake the fish were rising. 

Miss Cookson moved away from the window. 
How late they were ! She would hardly get home in 
time for her own supper. They would probably ask 
her to stay and sup with them. But she did not 
intend to stay. Honeymooners were much better left 
to themselves. Nelly would be a dreadfully senti- 
mental bride; and then dreadfully upset when George 
went away. She had asked her sister to join them in 



'MISSING' 7, 

the Lakes, and it was taken for granted that they 
would resume living together after George's depar- 
ture. But Bridget had fixed her own lodgings, for 
the present, a mile away, and did not mean to see 
much of her sister till the bridegroom had gone. 

There was the sound of a motor-car on the road, 
which ran along one side of the garden, divided from 
it by a high wall. It could hardly be they; for they 
were coming frugally by the coach. But Miss Cook- 
son went across to a side window looking on the 
road to investigate. 

At the foot of the hill opposite stood a luxurious 
car, waiting evidently for the party which was now 
descending the hill towards it. Bridget had a clear 
view of them, herself unseen behind Mrs. Weston's 
muslin blinds. A girl was in front, with a young man 
in khaki, a convalescent officer, to judge from his 
frail look and hollow eyes. The girl was exactly 
like the fashion-plate in the morning's paper. She 
wore a very short skirt and Zouave jacket in grey 
cloth, high-heeled grey boots, with black tips and 
gaiters, a preposterous little hat perched on one side 
of a broad white forehead, across which the hair was 
parted like a boy's, and an ostrich plume on the top 
of the hat, which nodded and fluttered so extrava- 
gantly that the face beneath almost escaped the spec- 
tator's notice. Yet it was on the whole a handsome 
face, audacious, like its owner's costume, and with 
evident signs for Bridget Cookson's sharp eyes 
of slight make-up. 



8 'MISSING' 

Miss Cookson knew who she was. She had seen 
her in the neighbouring town that morning, and had 
heard much gossip about her. She was Miss Farrell, 
of Carton Hall, and that gentleman coming down the 
hill more slowly behind her was no doubt her brother 
Sir William. 

Lame? That of course was the reason why he 
was not in the army. It was not very conspicuous, 
but still quite definite. A stiff knee, Miss Cookson 
supposed an accident perhaps some time ago. 
Lucky for him! on any reasonable view. Bridget 
Cookson thought the war ' odious,' and gave no more 
attention to it -than she could help. It had lasted 
now nearly a year, and she was heartily sick of it. 
It filled the papers with monotonous news which 
tired her attention which she did not really try to 
understand. Now she supposed she would have to 
understand it. For George, her new brother-in-law, 
was sure to talk a terrible amount of shop. 

Sir William was very tall certainly, and good- 
looking. He had a short pointed beard, a ruddy, 
sunburnt complexion, blue eyes and broad shoulders 
the common points of the well-born and landown- 
ing Englishman. Bridget looked at him with a mix- 
ture of respect and hostility. To be rich was to be so 
far interesting; still all such persons, belonging to 
a world of which she knew nothing, were in her eyes 
'swells,' and gave themselves airs; a procedure on 
their part, which would be stopped when the middle 
and lower classes were powerful enough to put them 



'MISSING' 9 

in their place. It was said, however, that this par- 
ticular man was rather a remarkable specimen of his 
kind didn't hunt didn't preserve had trained as 
an artist, and even exhibited. The shopwoman in 
B from whom Miss Cookson derived her in- 
formation about the Farrells, had described Sir Wil- 
liam as ' queer ' said everybody knew he was ' queer.' 
Nobody could get him to do any county work. He 
hated Committees, and never went near them. It 
was said he had been in love and the lady had died. 
' But if we all turned lazy for that kind of thing! ' * 
said the little shopwoman, shrugging her shoulders. 
Still the Farrells were not unpopular. Sir William 
had a pleasant slow way of talking, especially to the 
small folk; and he had just done something very 
generous in giving up his house the whole of his 
house somewhere Cockermouth way, to the War 
Office, as a hospital. As for his sister, she seemed 
to like driving convalescent officers about, and throw- 
ing away money on her clothes. There was no sign 
of ' war economy ' about Miss Farrell. 

Here, however, the shopwoman's stream of gos- 
sip was arrested by the arrival of a new customer. 
Bridget was not sorry. She had not been at all 
interested in the Farrells' idiosyncrasies; and she 
only watched their preparations for departure now, 
for lack of something to do. The chauffeur was 
waiting beside the car, and Miss Farrell got in first, 
taking the front seat. Then Sir William, who had 
been loitering on the hill, hurried down to give a 



io 'MISSING' 

helping hand to the young officer, who was evidently 
only in the early stages of convalescence. After 
settling his guest comfortably, he turned to speak to 
his chauffeur, apparently about their road home, as 
he took a map out of his pocket. 

At this moment, a clatter of horses' hoofs and the 
rattle of a coach were heard. Round the corner, 
swung the Windermere evening coach in fine style, 
and drew up at the door of Mrs. Weston's lodgings, 
a little ahead of the car. 

* There they are ! ' said Miss Cookson, excited in 
spite of herself. ' Well, I needn't go down. George 
will bring in the luggage.' 

A young man and a young lady got up from their 
seats. A ladder was brought for the lady to descend. 
But just as she was about to step on it, a fidgeting 
horse in front made a movement, the ladder slipped, 
and the lady was only just in time to withdraw her 
foot and save herself. 

Sir William Farrell, who had seen the little inci- 
dent, ran forward, while the man who had been 
placing the ladder went to the horse, which was 
capering and trying to rear in his eagerness to be off. 

Sir William raised the ladder, and set it firmly 
against the coach. 

' I think you might risk it now,' he said, raising his 
eyes pleasantly to the young person above him. 

* Thank you,' said a shy voice. Mrs. Sarratt 
turned round and descended. Meanwhile the man 
holding the ladder saw an officer in khaki standing 



'MISSING' ii 

on the top of the coach, and heard him address a 
word of laughing encouragement to the lady. And 
no sooner had her feet touched the ground than he 
was at her side in a trice. 

4 Thank you, Sir ! ' he said, saluting. ' My wife 
was very nearly thrown off. That horse has been 
giving trouble all the way.' 

* Must be content with what you can get, in war- 
time ! ' said the other smiling, as he raised his hat to 
the young woman he had befriended, whom he now 
saw plainly. ' And there are so few visitors at pres- 
ent in these parts that what horses there are don't 
get enough to do.' 

The face turned upon him was so exquisite in line 
and colour that Sir William, suddenly struck, instead 
of retreating to his car, lingered while the soldier 
husband a lieutenant, to judge from the stripes on 
his cuff, collected a rather large amount of luggage 
from the top of the coach. 

' You must have had a lovely drive along Winder- 
mere,' said Sir William politely. * Let me carry that 
bag for you. You're stopping here? ' 

' Yes ' said Mrs. Sarratt, distractedly, watching 
to see that the luggage was all right. * Oh, George, 
do take care of that parcel ! ' 

1 All right.' 

But she had spoken too late. As her husband, 
having handed over two suit cases to Mrs. Weston's 
fourteen-year old boy, came towards her with a large 
brown paper parcel, the string of it slipped, Mrs. 



12 'MISSING' 

Sarratt gave a little cry, and but for her prompt rush 
to his assistance, its contents would have descended 
into the road. But through a gap in the paper vari- 
ous tin and china objects were disclosed. 

* That's your " cooker," Nelly,' said her husband 
laughing. * I told you it would bust the show ! ' 

But her tiny, deft fingers rapidly repaired the 
damage, and re-tied the string while he assisted her. 
The coach drove off, and Sir William patiently held 
the bag. Then she insisted on carrying the parcel 
herself, and the lieutenant relieved Sir William. 

* Awfully obliged to you I ' he said gratefully. 
1 Good evening ! We're stopping here for a bit.' He 
pointed to the open door of the lodging-house, where 
Mrs. Weston and the boy were grappling with the 
luggage. 

' May I ask ' Sir William's smile as he looked 
from one to the other expressed that loosening of 
conventions in which we have all lived since the war 
* Are you home on leave, or ' 

1 1 came home to be married,' said the young 
soldier, flushing slightly, while his eyes crossed those 
of the young girl beside him. * I've got a week 
more.' 

' You've been out some time ? ' 

' Since last November. I got a scratch in the 
Ypres fight in April oh, nothing a small flesh 
wound but they gave me a month's leave, and my 
medical board has only just passed me.' 



'MISSING' 13 

' Lanchesters ? ' said Sir William, looking at his 
cap. The other nodded pleasantly. 

* Well, I am sure I hope you'll have good weather 
here,' said Sir William, stepping back, and once more 
raising his hat to the bride. * And if there was 
anything I could do to help your stay ' 

* Oh, thank you, Sir, but ' 

The pair smiled again at each other. Sir W T illiam 
understood, and smiled too. A more engaging couple 
he thought he had never seen. The young man was 
not exactly handsome, but he had a pair of charming 
hazel eyes, a good-tempered mouth, and a really 
fine brow. He was tall too, and well proportioned, 
and looked the pick of physical fitness. * Just the 
kind of splendid stuff we are sending out by the ship- 
load,' thought the elder man, with a pang of envy 
1 And the girl's lovely ! ' 

She was at that moment bowing to him, as she 
followed her husband across the road. A thought 
occurred to Sir William, and he pursued her. 

' I wonder ' he said diffidently ' if you care for 
boating if you would like to boat on the lake ' 

' Oh, but it isn't allowed ! ' She turned on him a 
pair of astonished eyes. 

1 Not in general. Ah, I see you know these parts 
already. But I happen to know the owner of the 
boathouse. Shall I get you leave? ' 

* Oh, that would be delightful ! ' she said, her face 
kindling with a child's joyousness. * That is kind of 



i 4 'MISSING' 

you! Our name is Sarratt my husband is Lieu- 
tenant Sarratt.' 

'Of the zist Lanchesters? All right I'll see 
to it!' 

And he ran back to his car, while the young people 
disappeared into the little entrance hall of the 
lodging-house, and the door shut upon them. 

Miss Farrell received her brother with gibes. 
Trust William for finding out a beauty ! Who were 
they? 

Farrell handed on his information as the car sped 
along the Keswick road. 

' Going back in a week, is he? ' said the convales- 
cent officer beside him. Then, bitterly ' lucky 
dog!' 

Farrell looked at the speaker kindly. 

* What with a wife to leave ? ' 

The boy, for he was little more, shrugged his 
shoulders. At that moment he knew no passion 
but the passion for the regiment and his men, to 
whom he couldn't get back, because his ' beastly 
constitution ' wouldn't let him recover as quickly as 
otjier men did. What did women matter? when 
the * push ' might be on, any day. 

Cicely Farrell continued to chaff her brother, who 
took it placidly fortified by a big cigar. 

* And if she'd been plain, Willy, you'd never have 
so much as known she was there ! Did you tell her 
you haunted these parts?' 

He shook his head. 



'MISSING' 15. 

Meanwhile the bride and bridegroom had been 
met on the lodging-house stairs by the bride's sister, 
who allowed herself to be kissed by the bridegroom, 
and hugged by the bride. Her lack of effusion,- 
however, made little impression on the newcomers. 
They were in that state of happiness which trans- 
figures everything round it; they were delighted with 
the smallest things; with the little lodging-house 
sitting room, its windows open to the lake and river; 
with its muslin curtains, very clean and white, its 
cluster-rose too, just outside the window; with Mrs. 
Weston, who in her friendly flurry had greeted the 
bride as ' Miss Nelly,' and was bustling to get the 
tea; even, indeed, with Bridget Cookson's few casual 
attentions to them. Mrs. Sarratt thought it * dear ' 
of Bridget to have come to meet them, and ordered 
tea for them, and put those delicious roses in her 
room 

' I didn't ! ' said Bridget, drily. * That was Milly. 
It didn't occur to me.' 

The bride looked a little checked. But then the 
tea came in, a real Westmorland meal, with its 
toasted bun, its jam, and its 'twist' of new bread; 
and Nelly Sarratt forgot everything but the pleasure 
of making her husband eat, of filling his cup for him, 
of looking sometimes through the window at that 
shining lake, beside which she and George would 
soon be roaming for six long days. Yes, and nights 
too. For there was a moon rising, which would be 



16 'MISSING' 

at the full in two or three days. Imagination flew 
forward, as she leant dreamily back in her chair 
when the meal was over, her eyes on the landscape. 
They two alone on that warm summer lake 
drifting in the moonlight heart against heart, cheek 
against cheek. A shiver ran through her, which was 
partly passion, partly a dull fear. But she banished 
fear. Nothing nothing should spoil their week 
together. 

' Darling! ' said her husband, who had been watch- 
ing her ' You're not very tired? ' He slipped his 
hand round hers, and her fingers rested in his clasp, 
delighted to feel themselves so small, and his so 
strong. He had spoken to her in the low voice that 
was hers alone. She was jealous lest Bridget should 
have overheard it. But Bridget was at the other end 
of the room. How foolish it had been of her just 
because she was so happy, and wanted to be nice to 
everybody ! to have asked Bridget to stay with 
them ! She was always doing silly things like that 
impulsive things. But now she was married. She 
must think more. It was really very considerate of 
Bridget to have got them all out of a difficulty and 
to have settled herself a mile away from them; 
though at first it had seemed rather unkind. Now 
they could see her always sometime in the day, but 
not so as to interfere. She was afraid Bridget and 
George would never really get on, though she 
Nelly wanted to forget all the unpleasantness there 
had been, to forget everything everything but 



'MISSING' 17 

George. The fortnight's honeymoon lay like a haze 
of sunlight between her and the past. 

But Bridget had noticed the voice and the clasped 
hands, with irritation. Really, after a fortnight, 
they might have done with that kind of demonstra- 
tiveness. All the same, Nelly was quite extraordi- 
narily pretty prettier than ever. While the sister 
was slowly putting on her hat before the only mirror 
the sitting-room possessed, she was keenly conscious 
of the two figures near the window, of the man in 
khaki sitting on the arm of Nelly's chair, holding 
her hand, and looking down upon her, of Nelly's 
flushed cheek and bending head. What a baby she 
looked! scarcely seventeen. Yet she was really 
twenty-one old enough, by a long way, to have done 
better for herself than this ! Oh, George, in himself, 
was well enough. If he came back from the war, 
his new-made sister-in-law supposed she would get 
used to him in time. Bridget however did not find 
it easy to get on with men, especially young men, of 
whom she knew very few. For eight or ten years 
now, she had looked upon them chiefly as awkward 
and inconvenient facts in women's lives. Before 
that time, she could remember a few silly feelings on 
her own part, especially with regard to a young clerk 
of her father's, who had made love to her up to the 
very day when he shamefacedly told her that he was 
already engaged, and would soon be married. That 
event had been a shock to her, and had made her 
cautious and suspicious towards men ever since. Her 



i8 'MISSING' 

life was now full of quite other interests incoherent 
and changeable, but strong while they lasted. Nelly's 
state of bliss awoke no answering sympathy in her. 

' Well, good-bye, Nelly,' she said, when she had 
put on her things advancing towards them, while 
the lieutenant rose to his feet. * I expect Mrs. 
Weston will make you comfortable. I ordered in 
all the things for to-morrow.' 

' Everything's charming! ' said Nelly, as she put 
her arms round her sister. ' It was awfully good of 
you to see to it all. Will you come over to lunch 
to-morrow? We might take you somewhere.' 

* Oh, don't bother about me ! You won't want 
me. I'll look in some time. I've got a lot of work 
to do.' 

Nelly withdrew her arms. George Sarratt sur- 
veyed his sister-in-law with curiosity. 

'Work?' he repeated, with his pleasant, rather 
puzzled smile. 

' What are you doing now, Bridget? ' said Nelly, 
softly, stroking the sleeve of her sister's jacket, but 
really conscious only of the man beside her. 

1 Reading some proof-sheets for a friend,' was the 
rather short reply, as Bridget released herself. 

'Something dreadfully difficult?' laughed Nelly. 

' I don't know what you mean by difficult,' said 
Bridget ungraciously, looking for her gloves. ' It's 
psychology that's all. Lucy Fenn's bringing out 
another volume of essays.' 

' It sounds awful ! ' said George Sarratt, laughing. 



'MISSING' 19 

1 1 wish I knew what psychology was about. But 
can't you take a holiday? just this week? ' 

He looked at her rather gravely. But Bridget 
shook her head, and again said good-bye. George 
Sarratt took her downstairs, and saw her off on her 
bicycle. Then he returned smiling, to his wife. 

4 1 say, Bridget makes me feel a dunce I Is she 
really such a learned party?' 

Nelly's dark eyes danced a little. ' I suppose she 
is but she doesn't stick to anything. It's always 
something different. A few months ago, it was 
geology; and we used to go out for walks with a 
hammer and a bag. Last year it was f^-ology! 
Our poor clergyman, Mr. Richardson, was no match 
for Bridget at all. She could always bowl him 
over.' 

1 Somehow all the " ologies " seem very far away 
don't they?' murmured Sarratt, after they had 
laughed together. They were standing at the win- 
dow again, his arm close round her, her small dark 
head pressed against him. There was ecstasy in their 
nearness to each other in the silver beauty of the 
lake in the soft coming of the June evening; and 
in that stern fact itself that in one short week, he 
would have left her, would be facing death or muti- 
lation, day after day, in the trenches on the Ypres 
salient. While he held her, all sorts of images 
flitted through his mind of which he would not 
have told her for the world horrible facts of bloody 
war. In eight months he had seen plenty of them. 



20 'MISSING' 

The signs of them were graven on his young face, 
on his eyes, round which a slight permanent frown, 
as of perplexity, seemed to have settled, and on his 
mouth which was no longer naif and boyish, but 
would always drop with repose into a hard com- 
pressed line. 

Nelly looked up. 

' Everything's far away ' she whispered ' but 
this and you ! ' He kissed her upturned lips and 
there was silence. 

Then a robin singing outside in the evening hush, 
sent a message to them. Nelly with an effort drew 
herself away. 

' Shan't we go out? We'll tell Mrs. Weston to 
put supper on the table, and we can come in when 
we like. But I'll just unpack a little first in our 
room.' 

She disappeared through a door at the end of 
the sitting-room. Her last words softly spoken 
produced a kind of shock of joy in Sarratt. He sat 
motionless, hearing the echo of them, till she reap- 
peared. When she came back, she had taken off her 
serge travelling dress and was wearing a little gown 
of some white cotton stuff, with a blue cloak, the 
evening having turned chilly, and a hat with a blue 
ribbon. In this garb she was a vision of innocent 
beauty; wherein refinement and a touch of strange- 
ness combined with the dark brilliance of eyes and 
hair, with the pale, slightly sunburnt skin, the small 
features and tiny throat, to rivet the spectator. And 



'MISSING' 21 

she probably knew it, for she flushed slightly under 
her husband's eyes. 

* Oh, what a paradise ! ' she said, under her breath, 
pointing to the scene beyond the window. Then 
lifting appealing hands to him * Take me there ! ' 



CHAPTER II 

THE newly-married pair crossed a wooden 
bridge over the stream from the Lake, and 
found themselves on its further shore, a shore 
as untouched and unspoilt now as when Wordsworth 
knew it, a hundred years ago. The sun had only 
just vanished out of sight behind the Grasmere fells, 
and the long Westmorland after-glow would linger 
for nearly a couple of hours yet. After much rain 
the skies were clear, and all the omens fair. But the 
rain had left its laughing message behind; in the full 
river, in the streams leaping down the fells, in the 
freshness of every living thing the new-leafed trees, 
the grass with its flowers, the rushes spreading their 
light armies through the flooded margins of the lake, 
and bending to the light wind, which had just, as 
though in mischief, blotted out the dream-world in 
the water, and set it rippling eastwards in one sheet 
of living silver, broken only by a cloud-shadow at its 
further end. Fragrance was everywhere from the 
trees, the young fern, the grass ; and from the shining 
west, the shadowed fells, the brilliant water, there 
breathed a voice of triumphant beauty, of uncon- 
quered peace, which presently affected George Sar- 
ratt strangely. 

They had just passed through a little wood; and 



'MISSING' 23 

in its friendly gloom, he had put his arm round his 
wife so that they had lingered a little, loth to leave 
its shelter. But now they had emerged again upon 
the radiance of the fell-side, and he had found a 
stone for Nelly to rest on. 

4 That those places in France, and that sky 
should be in the same world ! ' he said, under his 
breath, pointing to the glow on the eastern fells, as 
he threw himself down on the turf beside her. 

Her face flushed with exercise and happiness sud- 
denly darkened. 

' Don't don't talk of them to-night ! ' she said 
passionately ' not to-night just to-night, George ! ' 

And she stooped impetuously to lay her hand on 
his lips. He kissed the hand, held it, and remained 
silent, his eyes fixed upon the lake. On that day 
week he would probably just have rejoined his regi- 
ment. It was somewhere in the neighbourhood of 
Bailleul. Hot work, he heard, was expected. There 
was still a scandalous shortage of ammunition and 
if there was really to be a ' push,' the losses would be 
appalling. Man after man that he knew had been 
killed within a week two or three days twenty- 
four hours even! of rejoining. Supposing that 
within a fortnight Nelly sat here, looking at this 
lake, with the War Office telegram in her hand 
1 Deeply regret to inform you, etc.' This was not a 
subject on which he had ever allowed himself to 
dwell, more than in his changed circumstances he was 



24 'MISSING' 

bound to dwell. Every soldier, normally, expects 
to get through. But of course he had done every- 
thing that wasjnecessary for Nelly! His will was in 
the proper hands; and the night before their wedding 
he had written a letter to her, to be given her if he 
fell. Otherwise he had taken little account of pos- 
sible death; nor had it cost him any trouble to banish 
the thought of it. 

But the beauty of the evening of this old earth, 
which takes no account of the perishing of men and 
Nelly's warm life beside him, hanging upon his, per- 
haps already containing within it the mysterious 
promise of another life, had suddenly brought upon 
him a tremor of soul an inward shudder. Did he 
really believe in existence after death in a meeting 
again, in some dim other scene, if they were violently 
parted now? He had been confirmed while at school. 
His parents were Church people of a rather languid 
type, and it seemed the natural thing to do. Since 
then he had occasionally taken the Communion, 
largely to please an elder school-friend, who was 
ardently devout, and was now a Chaplain on the 
Western front. But what did it really mean to him? 
what would it mean to her if she were left alone ? 
Images passed through his mind the sights of the 
trenches shattered and dying bodies. What was 
the soul? had it really an independent life? Some- 
thing there was in men quite rough and common 
men something revealed by war and the sufferings 
of war so splendid, so infinitely beyond anything he 



'MISSING' 25 

had ever dreamed of in ordinary life, that to think of 
it roused in him a passion of hidden feeling perhaps 
adoration but vague and speechless adoration of 
he knew not what. He did not speak easily of his 
feeling, even to his young wife, to whom marriage 
had so closely, so ineffably bound him. But as he lay 
on the grass looking up at her smiling obeying 
her command of silence, his thoughts ranged irre- 
pressibly. Supposing he fell, and she lived on 
years and years to be an old woman? Old ! Nelly? 
Impossible ! He put his hand gently on the slender 
foot, and felt the pulsing life in it. * Dearest ! ' she 
murmured at his touch, and their eyes met tenderly. 

' I should be content ' he thought * if we could 
just live this life out ! I don't believe I should want 
another life. But to go and leave her; to go just 
at the beginning before one knows anything be- 
fore one has finished anything ' 

And again his eyes wandered from her to the 
suffusion of light and colour on the lake. * How 
could anyone ever want anything better than this 
earth this life at its best if only one were al- 
lowed a full and normal share of it ! ' And he 
thought again, almost with a leap of exasperation, of 
those dead and mangled men out there in France. 
Who was responsible God? or man? But man's 
will is must be something dependent something 
included in God's will. If God really existed, and if 
He willed war, and sudden death then there must 
be another life. Or else the power that devised the 



26 'MISSING' 

world was not a good, but an evil at best, a blind 
one. 

But while his young brain was racing through 
the old puzzles in the old ways, Nelly was thinking 
of something quite different. Her delicate small 
face kept breaking into little smiles with pensive in- 
tervals till at last she broke out 

' Do you remember how I caught you turning 
back to look after us just here just about here? 
You had passed that thorn tree ' 

He came back to love-making with delight. 

* " Caught me ! " I like that! As if you weren't 
looking back too ! How else did you know anything 
about me ? ' 

He had taken his seat beside her on the rock, and 
her curly black head was nestling against his shoul- 
der. There was no one on mountain path, no one on 
the lake. Occasionally from the main road on the 
opposite shore there was a passing sound of wheels. 
Otherwise the world was theirs its abysses of 
shadow, its ' majesties of light* 

She laughed joyously, not attempting to contradict 
him. It was on this very path, just two months 
before the war, that they had first seen each other. 
She with her father and Bridget were staying at 
Mrs. Weston's lodgings, because she, Nelly, had had 
influenza, and the doctor had sent her away for a 
change. They knew the Lakes well already, as is 
the way of Manchester folk. Their father, a hard- 
worked, and often melancholy man, had delighted in 



'MISSING' 27 

them, summer and winter, and his two girls had 
trudged about the fells with him year after year, and 
wanted nothing different or better. At least, Nelly 
had always been content. Bridget had grumbled 
often, and proposed Blackpool, or Llandudno, or 
Eastbourne for a change. But their father did not 
like ' crowds.' They came to the Lakes always be- 
fore or after the regular season. Mr. Cookson 
hated the concourse of motorists in August, and 
never would use one himself. Not even when they 
went from Ambleside to Keswick. They must always 
walk, or go by the horse-coach. 

Nelly presently looked up, and gave a little pull 
to the corner of her husband's moustache. 

* Of course you know you behaved abominably 
that next day at Wythburn! You kept that whole 
party waiting while you ran after us. And I hadn't 
dropped that bag. You knew very well I hadn't 
dropped it! ' 

He chuckled. 

* It did as well as anything else. I got five min- 
utes' talk with you. I found out where you lodged.' 

1 Poor papa ! ' said Nelly reflectively ' he was 
so puzzled. " There's that fellow we saw at Wyth- 
burn again! Why on earth does he come here to 
fish? I never saw anybody catch a thing in this bit 
of the river." Poor papa ! ' 

They were both silent a little. Mr. Cookson had 
not lived long enough to see Nelly and George Sar- 
ratt engaged. The war had killed him. Financial 



28 'MISSING' 

embarrassment was already closing on him when it 
broke out, and he could not stand the shock and the 
general dislocation of the first weeks, as sounder men 
could. The terror of ruin broke him down and 
he was dead before Christmas, nominally of bronchi- 
tis and heart failure. Nelly had worn mourning for 
him up to her wedding day. She had been very sorry 
for 'poor papa ' and very fond of him; whereas 
Bridget had been rather hard on him always. For 
really he had done his best. After all he had left 
them just enough to live upon. Nelly's conscience, 
grown tenderer than of old under the touch of joy, 
pricked her as she thought of her father. She knew 
he had loved her best of his two daughters. She 
would always remember his last lingering hand-clasp, 
always be thankful for his last few words ' God 
bless you, dear.' But had she cared for him enough 
in return? had she really tried to understand him? 
Some vague sense of the pathos of age of its isola- 
tion its dumb renouncements gripped her. If he 
had only lived longer ! He would have been so proud 
of George. 

She roused herself. 

' You did really make up your mind then? ' she 
asked him, just for the pleasure of hearing him con- 
fess it again. 

' Of course I did ! But what was the good? ' 

She knew that he meant it had been impossible 
to speak while his mother was still alive, and he, her 
only child, was partly dependent upon her. But his 



'MISSING' 29 

mother had died not long after Nelly's father, and 
her little income had come to her son. So now what 
with Nelly's small portion, and his mother's two 
hundred and fifty a year in addition to his pay, the 
young subaltern thought himself almost rich in 
comparison with so many others. His father, who 
had died while he was still at school, had been a mas- 
ter at Harrow, and he had been brought up in a 
refined home, with high standards and ideals. A 
scholarship at Oxford at one of the smaller colleges, 
a creditable degree, then an opening in the office of a 
well-known firm of solicitors, friends of his father, 
and a temporary commission, as soon as war broke 
out, on his record as a keen and diligent member of 
the Harrow and Oxford O.T.C.'s: these had been 
the chief facts of his life up to August 1914; that 
August which covered the roads leading to the 
Aldershot headquarters, day by day, with the ever- 
renewed columns of the army to be, with masses of 
marching men, whose eager eyes said one thing 
only ' Training! training! ' 

The war, and the causes of the war, had moved 
his nature, which was sincere and upright, pro- 
foundly; all the more perhaps because of a certain 
kindling and awakening of the whole man, which had 
come from his first sight of Nelly Cookson in the 
previous June, and from his growing friendship with 
her which he must not yet call love. He had de- 
cided however after three meetings with her that he 
would never marry anyone else. Her softness, her 



30 'MISSING' 

yieldingness, her delicate beauty intoxicated him. 
He rejoiced that she was no ' new woman,' but only 
a very girlish and undeveloped creature, who would 
naturally want his protection as well as his love. 
For it was his character to protect and serve. He 
had protected and served his mother faithfully and 
well. And as she was dying, he had told her about 
Nelly not before; only to find that she knew it all, 
and that the only soreness he had ever caused her 
came from the secrecy which he had tenderly thought 
her due. 

But for all his sanity and sweet temper there was 
a hard tough strain in him, which had made war so 
far, even through the horrors of it, a great absorb- 
ing game to him, for which he knew himself fitted, 
in which he meant to excel. Several times during the 
fighting that led up to Neuve Chapelle he had drawn 
the attention of his superiors, both for bravery and 
judgment; and after Neuve Chapelle, he had been 
mentioned in despatches. He had never yet known 
fear in the field never even such a shudder at the 
unknown which was yet the possible ! as he had 
just been conscious of. His nerves had always been 
strong, his nature was in the main simple. Yet for 
him, as well as for so many other * fellows ' he knew, 
the war had meant a great deal of this new and puz- 
zled thinking on problems of right and wrong, of 
' whence ' and * whither,' of the personal value of 
men this man, or that man. By George, war 
brought them out ! these personal values. And the 



'MISSING' 31 

general result for him, up to now, had he been 
specially lucky? had been a vast increase of faith 
in his fellow men, yes, and faith in himself, modest 
as he was. He was proud to be an English soldier 
proud to the roots of his being. His quiet patriotism 
had become a passion; he knew now in what he had 
believed. 

Yes England for ever ! An English home after 
the war and English children. Oh, he hoped Nelly 
would have children ! As he held her pressed against 
him, he seemed to see her in the future with the 
small things round her. But he did not speak 
of it. 

She meanwhile was thinking of quite other things, 
and presently she said in a quick, troubled voice 

4 George ! while you are away you don't want 
me to do munitions? ' 

He laughed out. 

4 Munitions ! I see you at a lathe ! Dear I 
don't think you'd earn your keep ! ' And he lifted 
her delicate arm and tiny hand, and looked at them 
with scientific curiosity. Her frail build was a con- 
stant wonder and pleasure to him. But small as she 
was, there was something unusual, some prophecy, 
perhaps, of developments to come, in the carriage of 
her head, and in some of her looks. Her education 
had been extremely slight, many of her ideas were 
still childish, and the circle from which she came 
had been inferior in birth and breeding to his own. 
But he had soon realised on their honeymoon, in 



32 'MISSING' 

spite of her simple talk, that she was very quick 
very intelligent. 

* Because ' she went on, doubtfully * there are 
so many other things I could do quite useful things. 
There's sphagnum moss! Everybody up here is 
gathering sphagnum moss you know for ban- 
dages upon the fells. I daresay Bridget might help 
in that. She won't do any other sort of war- 
work.' 

1 Why, I thought all women were doing some kind 
of war-work ! ' 

* Bridget won't. She doesn't want to hear about 
the war at all. She's bored with it.' 

' Bored with it! Good heavens ! ' Sarratt's coun- 
tenance clouded. * Darling that'll be rather hard 
on you, if you and she are going to live together.' 

Nelly lifted her head from his shoulder, and 
looked at him rather gravely. 

' I'm afraid you don't know much about Bridget, 
George. She's, well, she's one of the oddest 
women you ever met.* 

* So it seems ! But why is she bored with the 
war?' 

* Well you see it doesn't matter to her in any 
way and she doesn't want it to matter to her. 
There's nobody in it she cares about.' 

* Thanks ! ' laughed Sarratt. But Nelly still grave, 
shook her head. ' Oh, she's not the least like other 
people. She won't care about you, George, just be- 
cause you've married me. And ' 



'MISSING' 33 

* And what ? Is she still angry with me for not 
being rich? ' 

And his thoughts went back to his first interview 
with Bridget Cookson on the day when their en- 
gagement was announced. He could see the tall 
sharp-featured woman now, standing with her back 
to the light in the little sitting-room of the Man- 
chester lodgings. She had not been fierce or abusive 
at all. She had accepted it quietly with only a few 
bitter sentences. 

' All right, Mr. Sarratt. I have nothing to say. 
Nelly must please herself. But you've done her an 
injury ! There are plenty of rich men that would 
have married her. You're very poor and so 
are we.' 

When the words were spoken, Nelly had just 
accepted him; she was her own mistress; he had not 
therefore taken her sister's disapproval much to 
heart. Still the words had rankled. 

' Darling ! when I made you marry me did I 
do you an injury?' he said suddenly, as they were 
walking again hand in hand along the high green 
path with the lake at their feet, and a vision of blue 
and rose before them, in the shadowed western 
mountains, the lower grounds steeped in fiery light, 
and the red reflections in the still water. 

* What do you mean? ' said Nelly, turning upon 
him a face of wonder. 

* Well, that was what Bridget said to me, when I 
told her that you had accepted me. But I was a great 



34 'MISSING' 

fool to tell you, darling! I'm sorry I did. It was 
only ' 

4 " Injury," ' repeated Nelly, not listening to him. 
4 Oh, yes, of course that was money. Bridget says 
it's all nonsense talking about honour, or love, or that 
kind of thing. Everything is really money. It was 
money that began this war. The Germans wanted 
our trade and our money and we were determined 
they shouldn't have them and that's all there is 
in it. With money you can have everything you 
want and a jolly life and without money you can 
have nothing, and are just nobody. When that rich 
old horror wanted to marry me last year in Man- 
chester, Bridget thought me perfectly mad to refuse 
him. She didn't speak to me for a week. Of course 
he would have provided for her too.' 

Sarratt had flushed hotly; but he spoke good- 
naturedly. 

4 Well, that was a miss for her I quite see that. 
But after all we can help her a bit. We shall always 
feel that we must look after her. And why shouldn't 
she herself marry? ' 

Nelly laughed. 

4 Never! She hates men.' 

There was a silence a moment. And then Sarratt 
said, rather gravely ' I say, darling, if she's going 
to make you miserable while I am away, hadn't we 
better make some other arrangement? I thought 
of course she would be good to you, and look after 



'MISSING' 35 

you! Naturally any sister would, that was worth 
her salt!' 

And he looked down indignantly on the little figure 
beside him. But it roused Nelly's mirth that he 
should put it in that way. 

4 George, you are such a darling ! and and, 
such a goose ! ' She rubbed her cheek against his 
arm as though to take the edge off the epithet. ' The 
idea of Bridget's wanting to " look after " me ! 
She'll want to manage me of course and I'd much 
better let her do it. I don't mind ! ' And the 
speaker gave a long, sudden sigh. 

' But I won't have you troubled and worried, when 
I'm not there to protect you ! ' cried Sarratt, fiercely. 
* You could easily find a friend.' 

But Nelly shook her head. 

1 Oh, no. That wouldn't do. Bridget and I al- 
ways get on, George. We never quarrelled ex- 
cept when I stuck to marrying you. Generally I 
always give in. It doesn't matter. It answers 
perfectly.' 

She spoke with a kind of languid softness which 
puzzled him. 

* But now you can't always give in, dearest! You 
belong to me ! ' And his grasp tightened on the hand 
he held. 

* I can give in enough to keep the peace, 1 said 
Nelly slowly. ' And if you weren't here, it wouldn't 
be natural that I shouldn't live with Bridget. I'm 
used to her. Only I want to make you understand 



36 'MISSING' 

her, darling. She's not a bit like well, like the 
people you admire, and its no good expecting her 
to be.' 

* I shall talk to her before I go ! ' he said, half 
laughing, half resolved. 

Nelly looked alarmed. 

* No please don't ! She always gets the better 
of people who scold her. Or if you were to get 
the better, then she'd visit it on me. And now 
don't let's talk of her any more ! What were we 
saying? Oh, I know what I was to do. Let's sit 
down again, there's a rock, made for us.' 

And on a natural seat under a sheltering rock 
canopied and hung with fern, the two rested once 
more, wrapped in one cloak, close beside the water, 
which was quiet again, and crossed by the magical 
lights and splendid shadows of the dying sunset. 
Nelly had been full of plans when they sat down, 
but the nearness of the man she loved, his arm round 
her, his life beating as it were in one pulse with hers, 
intoxicated, and for a time silenced her. She had 
taken off her hat, and she lay quietly against him in 
the warm shelter of the cloak. He thought presently 
she was asleep. How small and dear she was ! He 
bent over her, watching as closely as the now dim 
light allowed, the dark eyelashes lying on her cheek, 
her closed mouth, and soft breathing. His very 
own ! the thought was ecstasy he forgot the war, 
and the few days left him. 



'MISSING' 37 

But this very intensity of brooding love in which 
he held her, made her restless after a little. She 
sat up, and smiled at him 

4 We must go home ! Yes, we must. But look ! 
there is a boat ! ' 

And only a few yards from them, emerging from 
the shadows, they saw a boat rocking gently at 
anchor beside a tiny landing-stage. Nelly sprang 
to her feet. 

.* George ! suppose you were just to row us out 
there into the light ! ' 

But when they came to the boat they found it pad- 
locked to a post in the little pier. 

* Ah, well, never mind,' said Nelly * I'm sure 
that man won't forget? ' 

* That man who spoke to us? Who was he? ' 

' Oh, I found out from Bridget, and Mrs. Weston. 
He's Sir William Farrell, a great swell, tremendously 
rich. He has a big place somewhere, out beyond 
Keswick, beyond Bassenthwaite. You saw he had a 
stiff knee?' 

' Yes. Can't fight, I suppose poor beggar ! He 
was very much struck by you t Mrs. George Sar- 
ratt! that was plain.' 

Nelly laughed a happy childish laugh. 

' Well, if he does get us leave to boat, you needn't 
mind, need you ? What else, I wonder, could he do 
for us?' 

'Nothing!' The tone was decided. 'I don't 
like being beholden to great folk. But that, I sup- 



38 'MISSING' 

pose, is the kind of man whom Bridget would have 
liked you to marry, darling? ' 

* As if he would ever have looked at me ! ' said 
Nelly tranquilly. ' A man like that may be as rich as 
rich, but he would never marry a poor wife.' 

' Thank God, I don't believe money will matter 
nearly as much to people, after the war ! ' said Sar- 
ratt, with energy. ' It's astonishing how now, in the 
army of course it wasn't the same before the war 
you forget it entirely. Who cares whether a man's 
rich, or who's son he is ? In my batch when I went 
up to Aldershot there were men of all sorts, stock- 
brokers, landowners, city men, manufacturers, solici- 
tors, some of them awfully rich, and then clerks, 
and schoolmasters, and lots of poor devils, like my- 
self. We didn't care a rap, except whether a man 
took to his drill, or didn't; whether he was going to 
keep the Company back or help it on. And it's just 
the same in the field. Nothing counts but what you 
are it doesn't matter a brass hap'orth what you 
have. And as the new armies come along that'll be 
so more and more. It's " Duke's son and Cook's 
son," everywhere, and all the time. If it was that in 
the South African war, it's twenty times that now. 
This war is bringing the nation together as nothing 
ever has done, or could do. War is hellish! but 
there's a deal to be said for it! ' 

He spoke with ardour, as they strolled home- 
ward, along the darkening shore, she hanging on his 
arm. Nelly said nothing. Her little face showed 



'MISSING' 39 

very white in the gathering shadows. He went on. 

' There was a Second Lieutenant in our battalion, 
an awfully handsome boy heir to a peerage I think. 
But he couldn't get a commission quick enough to 
please him when the war broke out, so he just enlisted 
oh ! of course they've given him a commission 
long ago. But his great friend was a young miner, 
who spoke broad Northumberland, a jolly chap. 
And these two stuck together we used to call them 
the Heavenly Twins. And in the fighting round Hill 
60, the miner got wounded, and lay out between the 
lines, with the Boche shells making hell round him. 
And the other fellow never rested till he'd crawled 
out to him, and taken him water, and tied him up, 
and made a kind of shelter for him. The miner was 
a big fellow, and the other was just a slip of a boy. 
So he couldn't drag in his friend, but he got another 
man to go out with him, and between them they did 
it right enough. And when I was in the clearing 
station next day, I saw the two the miner in bed, 
awfully smashed up, and the other sitting by him. 
It made one feel choky. The boy could have put 
down a cool hundred thousand, I suppose, if it could 
have done any good. But it wouldn't. I can tell 
you, darling, this war knocks the nonsense out of a 
man ! ' 

' But Bridget is a woman! * said a dreamy voice 
beside him. 

Sarratt laughed; but he was launched on recol- 
lections and could not stop himself. Apparently 



40 'MISSING' 

everybody in his company was a hero, and had de- 
served the Military Cross ten times over, except 
himself. He described some incidents he had per- 
sonally seen, and through the repressed fire with 
which he spoke, the personality and ideals of the man 
revealed themselves normal, strong, self-forget- 
ting. Had he even forgotten the little creature 
beside him? Hardly, for instinctively he softened 
away some of the terrible details of blood and pain. 
But he had forgotten Nelly's prohibition. And 
when again they had entered the dark wood which 
lay between them and the cottage on the river-bank, 
suddenly he heard a trembling breath, and a 
sob. 

He caught her in his arms. 

I Nelly, darling! Oh, I was a brute to talk to you 
like this.' 

' No,' she said, struggling with herself ' No I 
Wait a moment.' She lay against him trembling 
through every limb, while he kissed and comforted 
her. 

* I'm I'm not a coward, George ! ' she said at 
last, gasping, ' I'm not indeed. Only well, this 
morning I had about a hundred and seventy hours 
left I counted them. And now there are fifteen 
less. And all the time, while we talk, they are slip- 
ping away, so quick so quick ' 

But she was regaining self-control, and soon 
released herself. 

I 1 won't do it again ! ' she said piteously, in the 



'MISSING' 41 

tone of a penitent child. ' I won't indeed. Let's 
go home. I'm all right.' 

And home they sped, hand in hand, silently. The 
little room when they re-entered it was bright with 
fire-light, because kind Mrs. Weston had thought the 
night chilly, and the white table laid out for them 
its pretty china and simple fare tempted and 
cheered them with its look of home. But Nelly lay 
on the sofa afterwards very pale, though smiling and 
talking as usual. And through the night she was 
haunted, sleeping and waking, by the image of the 
solitary boat rocking gently on the moonlit lake, 
the water lapping its sides. She saw herself and 
George adrift in it sailing into disappearing in 
that radiance of silver light. Sleepily she hoped that 
Sir William Farrell would not forget his promise. 



CHAPTER III 

'1V/T AY l come in? ' 

^LY J[ Nelly Sarratt, who was standing beside 
the table in the sitting-room, packing a 
small luncheon-basket with sandwiches and cake, 
looked up in astonishment. Then she went to the 
door which was slightly ajar, and opened it. 

She beheld a very tall man standing smiling on 
the threshold. 

' I hope I'm not disturbing you, Mrs. Sarratt 
but I was on my way for a day's sketching, and as 
my car passed your house, I thought I would like 
to bring you, myself, the permission which I spoke 
of on Saturday. I wrote yesterday, my friend 
was away from home but I got a telegram this 
morning.' 

The visitor held out a telegram, which Nelly took 
in some bewilderment. It fluttered her to be so much 
thought for by a stranger and a stranger moreover 
who seemed but to wave his wand and things were 
done. But she thanked him heartily. 

* Won't you come in, Sir William? ' she asked him, 
shyly. ' My husband will be here directly.' 

It pleased him that she had found out who he was. 
He protested that he mustn't stay a moment, but all 

43 



'MISSING' 43 

the same he came in, and stood with his hands in his 
pockets looking at the view. He seemed to Nelly to 
fill the little sitting-room. Not that he was stout. 
There was not an ounce of superfluous flesh on him 
anywhere. But he stood at least six foot four in 
his boots; his shoulders were broad in proportion; 
and his head, with its strong curly hair of a light 
golden brown, which was repeated in his short beard, 
carried itself with the unconscious ease of one who 
has never known anything but the upper seats of life. 
His features were handsome, except for a broad 
irregular mouth, and his blue eyes were kind and 
lazily humorous. 

' There's nothing better than that lake,' he said, 
motioning towards it, with his hand, as though he 
followed the outlines of the hills. ' But I never try 
to draw it. I leave that to the fellows who think 
they can ! I'm afraid your permit's only for a week, 
Mrs. Sarratt. The boat, I find, will be wanted after 
that.' 

' Oh, but my husband will be gone in a week less 
than a week. I couldn't row myself ! ' said Nelly, 
smiling. 

But Sir William thought the smile trembled a little, 
and he felt very sorry for the small, pretty creature. 

' You will be staying on here after your husband 
goes? ' 

' Oh yes. My sister will be with me. We know 
the Lakes very well.' 

' Staying through the summer, I suppose ? ' 



44 'MISSING' 

4 1 shan't want to move if the war goes on. We 
haven't any home of our own yet.' 

She had seated herself, and spoke with the self- 
possession which belongs to those who know them- 
selves fair to look upon. But there seemed to be no 
coquetry about her no consciousness of a male to 
be attracted. All her ways were very gentle and 
childish, and in her white dress she made the same 
impression on Farrell as she had on Bridget, of 
extreme absurd youthfulness. He guessed her 
age about nineteen, perhaps younger. 

* I'm afraid the war will go on,' he said, kindly. 
* We are only now just finding out our deficiencies.' 

Nelly sighed. 

1 1 know it's awful how we want guns and shells ! 
My husband says it makes him savage to see how we 
lose men for want of them. Why are we so short? 
Whose fault is it?' 

A spot of angry colour had risen in her cheelc. 
It was the dove defending her mate. The change 
was lovely, and Farrell, with his artist's eye, watched 
it eagerly. But he shook his head. 

1 It's nobody's fault. It's all on such a scale 
unheard of! Nobody could have guessed before- 
hand unless like Germany, we had been preparing 
for years to rob and murder our neighbours. Well, 
Mrs. Sarratt, I must be going on. But I wanted to 
say, that if we could do anything for you please 
command us. We live about twenty miles from here. 
My sister hopes she may come and see you. And we 



'MISSING' 45 

have a big library at Carton. If there are any books 
you want ' 

4 Oh, how very kind of you ! ' said Nelly grate- 
fully. She had risen and was standing beside him, 
looking at him with her dark, frank eyes. ' But in- 
deed I shall get on very well. There's a war work- 
room in Manchester, which will send me work. And 
I shall try and help with the sphagnum moss. 
There's a notice up near here, asking people to help. 
And perhaps ' she laughed and colored ' I shall 
try to sketch a little. I can't do it a bit but it 
amuses me.' 

' Oh, you draw? ' said Farrell, with a smile. Then, 
looking round him, he noticed a portfolio on the 
table, with a paint box beside it. * May I look? ' 

With rather red cheeks, Nelly showed her per- 
formances. She knew very well, being accustomed 
to follow such things in the newspapers, that Sir 
William Farrell had exhibited both in London and 
Manchester, and was much admired by some of the 
critics. 

Farrell twisted his mouth over them a good deal, 
considering them carefully. 

' Yes, I see I see exactly where you are. Not 
bad at all, some of them. I could lend you some 
things which would help you I think. Ah, here is 
your husband.' 

George Sarratt entered, looking in some surprise 
at their very prompt visitor, and a little inclined to 
stand on his guard against a patronage that might 



46 'MISSING' 

be troublesome. But Farrell explained himself so 
apologetically that the young man could only add his 
very hearty thanks to his wife's. 

* Well, I really must be off,' said Farrell again, 
looking for his hat. * And I see you are going out 
for the day.' He glanced at the lunch preparations. 
1 Do you know Loughrigg Tarn?' He turned to 
Nelly. 

' Oh, yes ! ' Her face glowed. * Isn't it beauti- 
ful? But I don't think George knows it.' She 
looked up at him. He smiled and shook his 
head. 

* I have a cottage there,' said Farrell, addressing 
Sarratt. * Wordsworth said it was like Nemi. It 
isn't: but it's beautiful all the same. I wish you 
would bring your wife there to tea with me one day 
before you go? There is an old woman who looks 
after me. This view is fine ' he pointed to the 
window ' but I think mine is finer.' 

' Thank you,' said Sarratt, rather formally * but 
I am afraid our days are getting pretty full.' 

* Of course, of course ! ' said Sir William, smiling. 
* I only meant, if you happened to be walking in that 
direction and want a rest. I have a number of 
drawings there my own and other people's, which 
Mrs. Sarratt might care to see sometime. You go 
on Saturday? ' 

* Yes. I'm due to rejoin by Monday.' 
Farrell's expression darkened. 

' You see what keeps me ? ' he said, sharply, strik- 



'MISSING' 47 

ing his left knee with the flat of his hand. * I had a 
bad fall, shooting in Scotland, years ago when I 
was quite a lad. Something went wrong in the knee- 
cap. The doctors muffed it, and I have had a stiff 
knee ever since. I daresay they'd give me work at 
the War Office or the Admiralty. Lots of fellows 
I know who can't serve are doing war-work of that 
kind. But I can't stand office work never could. 
It makes me ill, and in a week of it I am fit to hang 
myself. I live out of doors. I've done some recruit- 
ing speaking for the Lord Lieutenant. But I can't 
speak worth a cent and I do no good. No fellow 
ever joined up because of my eloquence ! couldn't 
if he tried. No I've given up my house it was 
the best thing I could do. It's a jolly house, and I've 
got lots of jolly things in it. But the War Office and 
I between us have turned it into a capital hospital. 
We take men from the Border regiments mostly. 
I wonder if I shall ever be able to live in it again ! 
My sister and I are now in the agent's house. I 
work at the hospital three or four days a week and 
then I come here and sketch. I don't see why I 
shouldn't.' 

He straightened his shoulder as though defying 
somebody. Yet there was something appealing, and, 
as it were, boyish, in the defiance. The man's 
patriotic conscience could be felt struggling with his 
dilettantism. Sarratt suddenly liked him. 

* No, indeed,' he said heartily. ' Why shouldn't 
you? ' 



48 'MISSING' 

* It's when one thinks of your job, one feels a brute 
to be doing anything one likes.' 

4 Well, you'd be doing the same job if you could. 
That's all right ! ' said Sarratt smiling. 

It was curious how in a few minutes the young 
officer had come to seem the older and more respon- 
sible of the two men. Yet Farrell was clearly his 
senior by some ten or fifteen years. Instinctively 
Nelly moved nearer to George. She liked to feel 
how easily he could hold his own with great people, 
who made her feel nervous. For she understood 
from Mrs. Weston that the Farrells were very great 
people indeed, as to money and county position, and 
that kind of thing. 

Sarratt took his visitor downstairs, and returned, 
laughing to himself. 

' Well, darling, I've promised we'll go to his cot- 
tage one day this week. You've to let him know. 
He's an odd fellow ! Reminds me of that story of 
the young Don at Cambridge who spent all the time 
he could spare from neglecting his duties in adorning 
his person. And yet that doesn't hit it quite either. 
For I don't suppose he does spend much time in 
adorning his person. He doesn't want it. He's such 
a splendid looking chap to begin with. But I'm sure 
his duties have a poor time ! Why, he told me me, 
an utter stranger! as we went downstairs that 
being a landowner was the most boring trade in the 
world. He hated his tenants, and turned all the 
bother of them over to his agents. " But they don't 



'MISSING' 49 

hate me " he said u because I don't put the screw 
on. I'm rich enough without." By Jove, he's a 
queer specimen ! ' 

And Sarratt laughed out, remembering some fur- 
ther items of the conversation on the stairs. 

' Whom are you discussing? ' said a cold voice in 
the background. 

It was Bridget Cookson's voice, and the husband 
and wife turned to greet her. The day was balmy 
June at its best. But Bridget as she came in had the 
look of someone rasped with east wind. Nelly 
noticed too that since her marrage, Bridget had 
developed an odd habit of not looking her or 
George straight in the face. She looked sideways, 
as though determined to avoid the mere sight of 
their youth and happiness. * Is she going to make a 
quarrel of it all our lives?' thought Nelly impa- 
tiently. ' And when George is so nice to her ! How 
can she be so silly ! ' 

' We were talking about our visitor who has just 
left,' said Sarratt, clearing a chair for his sister-in- 
law. * Ah, you came from the other direction, you 
just missed him.' 

* The man ' said Nelly * who was so awfully 
polite to me on Saturday Sir William Farrell.' 

Bridget's countenance lost its stiffness at once 
became eager and alert. 
' What did he come f or ?' 

* To bring us permission to use the boat for a 



50 'MISSING' 

week,' said Nelly. * Wasn't it decent of him? and 
to do it so quick ! ' 

' Oh, that's the Farrell way always was,' said 
Bridget complacently, as though she had the family 
in her pocket. 'When they think of a thing it's 
done. It's hit or miss. They never stop to 
think.' 

Sarratt looked at his sister-in-law with a covert 
amusement. It was a left-handed remark. But she 
went on while Nelly finished the packing of the 
luncheon-basket pouring out a flood of gossip about 
the Farrells's place near Cockermouth, their great 
relations, their wealth, their pictures, and their china, 
while Sarratt walked up and down, fidgeting with 
his mouth, and inwardly thanking his stars that his 
Nelly was not the least like her sister, that she was 
as refined and well-bred, as Bridget was beginning 
to seem to him vulgar and tiresome. But he realised 
that there was a personality in the tall harsh woman; 
that she might be formidable; and once or twice he 
found himself watching the curious side-long action 
of her head and neck, and the play of her eyes and 
mouth, with a mingling of close attention and strong 
dislike. He kept his own counsel however ; and pres- 
ently he heard Bridget, who had so far refused all 
their invitations to join their walks or excursions, 
rather eagerly accepting Nelly's invitation to go with 
them to Sir William's Loughrigg cottage. She knew 
all about it apparently, and said it was * a gem of a 
place ! ' Sir William kept an old butler and his wife 



'MISSING' 51 

there pensioned off who looked after him when 
he came. * Everything's tiny,' said Bridget with 
emphasis ' but perfect! Sir William has the most 
exquisite taste. But he never asks anybody to go 
there. None of the neighbours know him. So of 
course they say its " side," and he gives himself airs. 
Anyway, Nelly, you may think yourselves highly 
honoured ' 

'Darling, isn't that basket ready?' said Sarratt, 
coming to his wife's aid. * We're losing the best of 
the day and if Bridget really won't go with us ' 

Bridget frowned and rose. 

'How are the proofs getting on?' said Sarratt, 
smiling, as she bade him a careless good-bye. 

Bridget drew herself up. 

* I never talk about my work.' 

4 1 suppose that's a good rule,' he said doubtfully, 
1 especially now that there's so much else to talk 
about. The Russian news to-day is pretty bad ! ' 

A dark look of anxiety crossed the young man's 
face. For it was the days of the great Russian re- 
treat in Galicia and Poland, and every soldier looking 
on, knew with gnashing of teeth that the happenings 
in the East meant a long postponement of our own 
advance. 

' Oh, I never trouble about the war 1 ' said Bridget, 
with a half-contemptuous note in her voice that fairly 
set George Sarratt on fire. He flushed violently, 
and Nelly looked at him in alarm. But he said noth- 
ing. Nelly however with a merry side-glance at 



52 'MISSING' 

him, unseen by Bridget, interposed to prevent him 
from escorting Bridget downstairs. She went her- 
self. Most sisters would have dispensed with or 
omitted this small attention; but Nelly always treated 
Bridget with a certain ceremony. When she re- 
turned, she threw her arms round George's neck, half 
laughing, and half inclined to cry. 

* Oh, George, I do wish I had a nicer sister to give 
you ! ' But George had entirely recovered himself. 

' We shall get on perfectly ! ' he declared, kissing 
the soft head that leant against him. ' Give me a 
little time, darling. She's new to me ! I'm new to 
her.' 

Nelly sighed, and went to put on her hat. In her 
opinion it was no more easy to like Bridget after 
three years than three hours. It was certain that she 
and George would never suit each other. At the 
same time Nelly was quite conscious that she owed 
Bridget a good deal. But for the fact that Bridget 
did the housekeeping, that Bridget saw to the in- 
vestment of their small moneys, and had generally 
managed the business of their joint life, Nelly would 
not have been able to dream, and sketch, and read, 
as it was her delight to do. It might be, as she had 
said to Sarratt, that Bridget managed because she 
liked managing. All the same Nelly knew, not 
without some prickings of conscience as to her own 
dependence, that when George was gone, she would 
never be able to get on without Bridget. 

Into what a world of delight the two plunged 



'MISSING' 53 

when they set forth ! The more it rains in the West- 
morland country, the more heavenly are the days 
when the clouds forget to rain ! There were white 
flocks of them in the June sky as the new-married 
pair crossed the wooden bridge beyond the garden, 
leading to the further side of the lake, but they were 
sailing serene and sunlit in the blue, as though their 
whole business were to dapple the hills with blue and 
violet shadows, or sometimes to throw a dazzling 
reflection down into the quiet water. There had been 
rain, torrential rain, just before the Sarratts arrived, 
so that the river was full and noisy, and all the little 
becks clattering down the fell, in their haste to reach 
the lake, were boasting to the summer air, as though 
in forty-eight hours of rainlessness they would not 
be as dry and dumb as ever again. The air was 
fresh, in spite of the Midsummer sun, and youth and 
health danced in the veins of the lovers. And yet 
not without a touch of something feverish, something 
abnormal, because of that day that shrouded day 
standing sentinel at the end of the week. They 
never spoke of it, but they never forgot it. It 
entered into each clinging grasp he gave her hand as 
he helped her up or down some steep or rugged bit 
of path into the lingering look of her brown eyes, 
which thanked him, smiling into the moments of 
silence, when they rested amid the springing bracken, 
and the whole scene of mountain, cloud and water 
spoke with that sudden tragic note of all supreme 
beauty, in a world of ' brittleness.' 



54 'MISSING' 

But they were not often silent. There was so 
much to say. They were still exploring each other, 
after the hurry of their marriage, and short engage- 
ment. For a time she chattered to him about her 
own early life their old red-brick house in a Man- 
chester suburb, with its good-sized rooms, its ma- 
hogany doors, its garden, in which her father used 
to work his only pleasure, after his wife's death, 
besides * the concerts * * You know we've awfully 
good music in Manchester! ' As for her own scat- 
tered and scanty education, she had begun to speak 
of it almost with bitterness. George's talk and recol- 
lections betrayed quite unconsciously the standards 
of the academic or highly-trained professional class 
to which all his father's kindred belonged; and his 
only sister, a remarkably gifted girl, who had died 
of pneumonia at eighteen, just as she was going to 
Girton, seemed to Nelly, when he occasionally 
described or referred to her, a miracle a terrifying 
miracle of learning and accomplishment. 

Once indeed, she broke out in distress : 

* Oh, George, I don't know anything ! Why 
wasn't I sent to school ! We had a wretched little 
governess who taught us nothing. And then I'm 
lazy I never was ambitious like Bridget. Do you 
mind that I'm so stupid do you mind? ' 

And she laid her hands on his knee, as they sat 
together among the fern, while her eyes searched his 
face in a real anxiety. 



'MISSING' 55 

What joy it was to laugh at her to tease her ! 

' How stupid are you, darling? Tell me, exactly. 
It is of course a terrible business. If I'd only 
known ' 

But she would be serious. 

4 1 don't know any languages, George ! Just a 
little French but you'd be ashamed if you heard me 
talking it. As to history don't ask ! ' She shrugged 
her shoulders despairingly. Then her face bright- 
ened. ' But there's something! I do love poetry 
I've read a lot of poetry.' 

' That's all right so have I,' he said, promptly. 

' Isn't it strange ' her tone was thoughtful 
* how people care for poetry nowadays ! A few 
years ago, one never heard of people ordinary peo- 
ple buying poetry, new poetry or reading it. 
But I know a shop in Manchester that's just full of 
poetry new books and old books and the shop- 
man told me that people buy it almost more than 
anything. Isn't it funny? What makes them do it? 
Is it the war? ' 

Sarratt considered it, while making a smooth path 
for a gorgeous green beetle through the bit of turf 
beside him. 

* I suppose it's the war,' he said at last. ' It 
does change fellows. It's easy enough to go along 
bluffing and fooling in ordinary times. Most men 
don't know what they think or what they feel or 
whether they feel anything. But somehow out 
there when you see the things other fellows are 



56 'MISSING' 

doing when you know the things you may have to 
do yourself well ' 

* Yes, yes go on ! ' she said eagerly, and he went 
on, but reluctantly, for he had seen her shiver, and 
the white lids fall a moment over her eyes. 

' it doesn't seem unnatural or hypocritical or 
canting to talk and feel sometimes as you 
couldn't talk or feel at home, with life going on just 
as usual. I've had to censor letters, you see, darling 
and the letters some of the roughest and stupidest 
fellows write, you'd never believe. And there's no 
pretence in it either. What would be the good of 
pretending out there? No it's just the pace life 
goes and the fire and the strain of it. It's awful 
and horrible and yet you wouldn't not be there 
for the world.' 

His voice dropped a little; he looked out with 
veiled eyes upon the lake chequered with the blue and 
white of its inverted sky. Nelly guessed trembling 
at the procession of images that was passing 
through them ; and felt for a moment strangely sepa- 
rated from him separated and desolate. 

' George, it's dreadful now to be a woman ! ' 

She spoke in a low appealing voice, pressing up 
against him, as though she begged the soul in him 
that had been momentarily unconscious of her, to 
come back to her. 

He laughed, and the vision before his eyes 
broke up. 

* Darling, it's adorable now to be a woman ! 



'MISSING' 57 

How I shall think of you, when I'm out there ! 
away from all the grime and the horror sitting by 
this lake, and looking as you do now.' 

He drew a little further away from her, and lying 
on his elbows on the grass, he began to read her, 
as it were, from top to toe, that he might fix every 
detail in his mind. 

4 1 like that little hat so much, Nelly ! and that 
blue cloak is just ripping! And what's that you've 
got at your waist a silver buckle ? yes ! I gave it 
you. Mind you wear it, when I'm away, and tell me 
you're wearing it then I can fancy it.' 

' Will you ever have time to think of me 
George ? ' 

She bent towards him. 

He laughed. 

* Well, not when I'm going over the parapet to 
attack the Boches. Honestly, one thinks of nothing 
then but how one can get one's men across. But you 
won't come off badly, my little Nell for thoughts 
night or day. And you mustn't think of us too senti- 
mentally. It's quite true that men write wonderful 
letters and wonderful verse too men of all ranks 
things you'd never dream they could write. I've 
got a little pocket-book full that I've collected. I've 
left it in London, but I'll show you some day. But 
bless you, nobody talks about their feelings at the 
front. We're a pretty slangy lot in the trenches, and 
when we're in billets, we read novels and rag each 
other and sleep my word, we do sleep ! ' 



58 'MISSING' 

He rolled on his back, and drew his hat over his 
eyes a moment, for even in the fresh mountain air the 
June sun was fierce. Nelly sat still, watching him, 
as he had watched her all the young strength and 
comeliness of the man to whom she had given herself. 

And as she did so there came swooping down 
upon her, like the blinding wings of a Fury, the 
remembrance of a battle picture she had seen that 
morning: a bursting shell limp figures on the 
ground. Oh not George not George never ! The 
agony ran through her, and her fingers gripped the 
turf beside her. Then it passed, and she was silently 
proud that she had been able to hide it. But it 
had left her pale and restless. She sprang up, and 
they went along the high path leading to Grasmere 
and Langdale. 

Presently at the top of the little neck which sepa- 
rates Rydal from Grasmere they came upon an odd 
cavalcade. In front walked an elderly lady, with a 
huge open bag slung round her, in which she carried 
an amazing load of the sphagnum moss that English 
and Scotch women were gathering at that moment 
all over the English and Scotch mountains for the 
surgical purposes of the war. Behind her came a 
pony, with a boy. The pony was laden with the 
same moss, so was the boy. The lady's face was 
purple with exertion, and in her best days she could 
never have been other than plain; her figure was 
shapeless. She stopped the pony as she neared the 
Sarratts, and addressed them panting. 



'MISSING' 59 

' I beg your pardon ! but have you by chance 
seen another lady carrying a bag like mine? I 
brought a friend with me to help gather this stuff 
but we seem to have missed each other on the top 
of Silver How and I can't imagine what's happened 
to her.' 

The voice was exceedingly musical and refined 
but there was a touch of power in it a curious note 
of authority. She stood, recovering breath and look- 
ing at the young people with clear and penetrating 
eyes, suddenly observant. 

The Sarratts could only say that they had not 
come across any other moss-gatherer on the road. 

The strange lady sighed but with a half humor- 
ous, half philosophical lifting of the eyebrows. 

' It was very stupid of me to miss her but you 
really can't come to grief on these fells in broad day- 
light. However, if you do meet her a lady with a 
sailor hat, and a blue jersey will you tell her that 
I've gone on to Ambleside ? ' 

Sarratt politely assured her that they would look 
out for her companion. He had never yet seen a 
grey-haired Englishwoman, of that age, carry so 
heavy a load, and he liked both her pluck and her 
voice. She reminded him of the French peasant 
women in whose farms he often lodged behind the 
lines. She meanwhile was scrutinising him the 
badge on his cap, and the two buttons on his khaki 
sleeve. 

* I think I know who you are,' she said, with a 



60 'MISSING' 

sudden smile. 'Aren't you Mr. and Mrs. Sarratt? 
Sir William Farrell told me about you.' Then she 
turned to the boy 4 Go on, Jim. I'll come soon.' 

A conversation followed on the mountain path, in 
which their new acquaintance gave her name as Miss 
Hester Martin, living in a cottage on the outskirts 
of Ambleside, a cousin and old friend of Sir William 
Farrell; an old friend indeed, it seemed, of all the 
local residents; absorbed in war-work of different 
kinds, and somewhere near sixty years of age; but 
evidently neither too old nor too busy to have lost 
the natural interest of a kindly spinster in a bride 
and bridegroom, especially when the bridegroom was 
in khaki, and under orders for the front. She prom- 
ised, at once, to come and see Mrs. Sarratt, and 
George, beholding in her a possible motherly friend 
for Nelly when he should be far away, insisted that 
she should fix a day for her call before his departure. 
Nelly added her smiles to his. Then, with a pleasant 
nod, Miss Martin left them, refusing all their offers 
to help her with her load. ' " My strength is as the 
strength of ten," ' she said with a flash of fun in her 
eyes ' But I won't go on with the quotation. Good- 
bye.' 

George and Nelly went on towards a spot above 
a wood in front of them to which she had directed 
them, as a good point to rest and lunch. She, mean- 
while, pursued her way towards Ambleside, her 
thoughts much more occupied with the young couple 
than with her lost companion. The little thing was 



'MISSING' 61 

a beauty, certainly. Easy to see what had attracted 
William Farrell! An uncommon type and a very 
artistic type; none of your milk-maids. She sup- 
posed before long William would be proposing to 
draw her hm ! with the husband away ? It was to 
be hoped some watch-dog would be left. William 
was a good fellow no real malice in him had 
never meant to injure anybody, that she knew of 
but 

Miss Martin's cogitations however went no far- 
ther in exploring that * but.' She was really very 
fond of her cousin William, who bore an amount 
of discipline from her that no one else dared to apply 
to the owner of Carton. Tragic, that he couldn't 
fight! That would have brought out all there was 
in him. 



CHAPTER IV 

GLORIOUS!' 
Nelly Sarratt stood lost in the beauty of 
the spectacle commanded by Sir William 
Farrell's cottage. It was placed in a by-road on the 
western side of Loughrigg, that smallest of real 
mountains, beloved of poets and wanderers. The 
ground dropped sharply below it to a small lake or 
tarn, its green banks fringed with wood, while on 
the further side the purple crag and noble head of 
Wetherlam rose out of sunlit mist, thereby indefi- 
nitely heightened into a pearl and azure sky. To 
the north also, a splendid wilderness of fells, near 
and far; with the Pikes and Bowfell leading the 
host. White mists radiant mists perpetually 
changing, made a magic interweaving of fell with 
fell, of mountain with sky. Every tint of blue and 
purple, of amethyst and sapphire lay melted in the 
chalice carved out by the lake and its guardian moun- 
tains. Every line of that chalice was harmonious", 
as though each mountain and valley filled its place 
consciously, in a living order; and in the grandeur 
of the whole there was no terror, no hint of a world 
hostile and inaccessible to man, as in the Alps and 
the Rockies. 

' These mountains are one's friends,' said Farrell, 
62 



'MISSING' 63 

smiling as he stood beside Nelly, pointing out the 
various peaks by name. ' If you know them only a 
little, you can trust yourself to them, at any hour 
of the day or night. Whereas, in the Alps, I always 
feel myself " a worm and no man " ! ' 

' I have never been abroad,' said Nelly shyly. 

For once he found an ingenue attractive. 

' Then you have it to come when the world is 
sane again. But some things you will have missed 
for ever. For instance, you will never see Rheims 
as it was. I have spent months at Rheims in old 
days, drawing and photographing. I must show you 
my things. They have a tragic value now.' 

And taking out a portfolio from a rack near him, 
he opened it and put it on a stand before her. 

Nelly, who had in her the real instincts of the 
artist, turned over some very masterly drawings, in 
mingled delight and despair. 

4 If I could only do something like that!' she 
said, pointing to a study of some of the famous win- 
dows at Rheims, with vague forms of saint and king 
emerging from a conflagration of colour, kindled 
by the afternoon sun, and dyeing the pavement 
below. 

' Ah, that took me some time. It was difficult. 
But here are some fragments you'll like just bits 
from the fagade and the monuments.' 

The strength of the handling excited her. She 
looked at them in silence; remembering with disgust 
all the pretty sentimental work she had been used to 



64 'MISSING' 

copy. She began to envisage what this commonly 
practised art may be; what a master can do with it. 
Standards leaped up. Alp on Alp appeared. When 
George was gone she would work, yes, she would 
work hard to surprise him when he came back. 

Sir William meanwhile was increasingly taken with 
his guest. She was shy, very diffident, very young; 
but in the few things she said, he discerned or 
fancied the stirrings of a real taste real intelli- 
gence. And she was prettier and more fetching than 
ever with her small dark head, and her lovely 
mouth. He would like to draw the free sensuous 
line of it, the beautiful moulding of the chin. What 
a prize for the young man ! Was he aware of his 
own good fortune ? Was he adequate ? 

4 1 say, how jolly ! ' said Sarratt, coming up to 
look. * My wife, Sir William I think she told you 
has got a turn for this kind of thing. These will 
give her ideas.' 

And while he looked at the drawings, he slipped a 
hand into his wife's arm, smiling down upon her, and 
commenting on the sketches. There was nothing in 
what he said. He only * knew what he liked,' and an 
unfriendly bystander would have been amused by his 
constant assumption that Nelly's sketches were as 
good as anybody's. Entirely modest for himself, 
he was inclined to be conceited for her, she checking 
him, with rather flushed cheeks. But Farrell liked 
him all the better, both for the ignorance and the 
pride. The two young people standing there to- 



'MISSING' 65 

gather, so evidently absorbed in each other, yet on 
the brink of no ordinary parting, touched the roman- 
tic note in him. He was very sorry for them 
especially for the bride and eagerly, impulsively 
wished to befriend them. 

In the background, the stout lady whom the Sar- 
ratts had met on Loughrigg Terrace, Miss Hester 
Martin, was talking to Miss Farrell, while Bridget 
Cookson was carrying on conversation with a tall 
officer who carried his arm in a sling, and was 
apparently yet another convalescent officer from the 
Carton hospital, whom Cicely Farrell had brought 
over in her motor to tea at her brother's cottage. 
His name seemed to be Captain Marsworth, and he 
was doing his best with Bridget; but there were great 
gaps in their conversation, and Bridget resentfully 
thought him dull. Also she perceived for she had 
extremely quick eyes in such matters that Captain 
Marsworth, while talking to her, seemed to be really 
watching Miss Farrell, and she at once jumped to 
the conclusion that there was something ' up ' be- 
tween him and Miss Farrell. 

Cicely Farrell certainly took no notice of him.- 
She was sitting perched on the high end of a sofa 
smoking a cigarette and dangling her feet, which 
were encased, as before, in high-heeled shoes and 
immaculate gaiters. She was dressed in white serge 
with a cap and jersey of the brightest possible green. 
Her very open bodice showed a string of fine pearls,- 
and she wore pearl ear-rings. Seen in the same room 



66 'MISSING' 

with Nelly Sarratt she could hardly be guessed at 
less than twenty-eight. She was the mature woman in 
full possession of every feminine weapon, experi- 
enced, subtle, conscious, a little hard, a little ma- 
licious. Nelly Sarratt beside her looked a child. 
Miss Farrell had glanced at her with curiosity, but 
had not addressed many words to her. She had con- 
cluded at once that it was a type that did not interest 
her. It interested William of course, because he was 
professionally on the look out for beauty. But that 
was his affair. Miss Farrell had no use for anything 
so unfledged and immature. And as for the sister, 
Miss Cookson, she had no points of attraction what- 
ever. The young man, the husband, was well enough 
apparently a gentleman; but Miss Farrell felt that 
she would have forgotten his existence when the tea- 
party was over. So she had fallen back on conversa- 
tion with her cousin. That Cousin Hester dear, 
shapeless, Puritanical thing! disapproved of her, 
her dress, her smoking, her ways, and her opinions, 
Cicely well knew but that only gave zest to their 
meetings, which were not very frequent. 

Meanwhile Bridget, in lieu of conversation and 
while tea was still preparing, was making mental 
notes of the cottage. It consisted apparently of two 
sitting-rooms, and a studio in which they were to 
have tea with two or three bedrooms above. It 
had been developed out of a Westmorland farm, but 
developed beyond recognition. The spacious rooms 
panelled in plain oak, were furnished sparely, with 



'MISSING' 67 

few things, but those of the most beautiful and 
costly kind. Old Persian rugs and carpets, a few 
Renaissance mirrors, a few priceless ' pots,' a picture 
or two, hangings and coverings of a dim purple 
the whole, made by these various items and objects, 
expressed a taste perhaps originally florid, but tamed 
by long and fastidious practice of the arts of deco- 
ration. 

In the study where tea had been laid, Nelly could 
not restrain her wonder and delight. On one wall 
hung ten of the most miraculous Turners drawings 
from his best period, each of them irreplaceably 
famous. Another wall showed a group of Boning- 
tons a third a similar gathering of Whistlers. Sir 
William, charmed with the bride's pleasure, took 
down drawing after drawing, carried them to the 
light for her, and discoursed upon them. 

' Would you like that to copy? ' he said, putting 
a Turner into her lap a marvel of blue mountain 
peaks, and winding river, and aerial distance. 

* Oh, I shouldn't dare I should be afraid! ' said 
Nelly, hardly liking to take the treasure in her own 
hands. * Aren't they aren't they worth immense 
sums? ' 

Sir William laughed. 

* Well, of course, they're valuable everybody 
wants them. But if you would ever like that one to 
copy, you shall have it, and any other that would 
help you. I know you wouldn't let it be hurt, if you 
could help it because you'd love it as I do. You 



68 'MISSING' 

wouldn't let a Turner drawing like that fade and 
blister in the sun as Pve seen happen again and 
again in houses he painted them for. Brutes ! Hang- 
ing's too good for people who maltreat Turners. Let 
me relieve you of it now. I must get you some tea. 
But the drawing will come to you next week. You 
won't be able to think of it till then.' 

He looked at her with the ardent sympathy which 
sprang easily from his quick, emotional temperament, 
and made it possible for him to force his way rapidly 
into intimacy, where he desired to be intimate. But 
Nelly shrank into herself. She put the drawing 
away, and did not seem to care to look at any more. 
Farrell wished he had left his remark unspoken, and 
finding that he had somehow extinguished her smiles 
and her talk, he relieved her of his company, and 
went away to talk to Sarratt and Captain Mars- 
worth. As soon as tea was over, Nelly beckoned to 
her husband. 

'Are you going so soon?' said Hester Martin, 
who had been unobtrusively mothering her, since 
Farrell left her ' When may I come and see you ? ' 

' To-morrow ? ' said Nelly vaguely, looking up. 
4 George hoped you would come, before he goes. 
There are there are only three days.' 

1 1 will come to-morrow,' said Miss Martin, touch- 
ing Nelly's hand softly. The cold, small fingers 
moved, as though instinctively, towards her, and took 
refuge in her warm capacious hand. Then Nelly 
whispered to Bridget appealingly 



'MISSING' 69 

1 1 want to go, Bridget.' 

Bridget frowned with annoyance. Why should 
Nelly want to go so soon ? The beauty and luxury of 
the cottage the mere tea-table with all its perfect 
appointments of fine silver and china, the multitude 
of cakes, the hot-house fruit, the well-trained butler 
all the signs of wealth that to Nelly were rather 
intimidating, and to Sarratt in war-time incon- 
gruous and repellent, were to Bridget the satisfac- 
tion of so many starved desires. This ease and lav- 
ishness ; the best of everything and no trouble to get 
it; the ' cottage ' as perfect as the palace; it was so, 
she felt, that life should be lived, to be really worth 
living. She envied the Farrells with an intensity of 
envy. Why should some people have so much and 
others so little ? And as she watched Sir William's 
attentions to Nelly, she said to herself, for the 
hundredth time, that but for Nelly's folly, she could 
easily have captured wealth like this. Why not 
Sir William himself? It would not have been at all 
unlikely that they should come across him on one of 
their Westmorland holidays. The thought of their 
dingy Manchester rooms, of the ceaseless care and 
economy that would be necessary for their joint 
menage when Sarratt was gone, filled her with dis- 
gust. Their poverty was wholly unnecessary it was 
Nelly's silly fault. She felt at times as though she 
hated her brother-in-law, who had so selfishly crossed 
their path, and ruined the hopes and dreams which 
had been strengthening steadily in her mind during 



yo 'MISSING' 

the last two years especially, since Nelly's beauty 
had become more pronounced. 

1 It's not at all late ! ' she said, angrily, in her 
sister's ear. 

* Oh, but George wants to take me to Easedale,' 
said Nelly under her breath. ' It will be our last 
long walk.' 

Bridget had to submit to be torn away. A little 
motor was waiting outside. It had brought the Sar- 
ratts and Bridget from Rydal, and was to take 
Bridget home, dropping the Sarratts at Grasmere 
for an evening walk. Sir William tried indeed to 
persuade them to stay longer, till a signal from his 
cousin Hester stopped him ; ' Well, if you must go, 
you must,' he said, regretfully. * Cicely, you must 
arrange with Mrs. Sarratt, when she will pay us a 
visit and ' he looked uncertainly round him, as 
though he had only just remembered Bridget's exist- 
ence * of course your sister must come too.' 

Cicely came forward, and with a little lisp, 
repeated her brother's invitation rather per- 
functorily. 

Sir William took his guests to their car, and bade 
a cordial farewell to Sarratt. 

' Good-bye and good luck. What shall I wish 
you? The D.S.O., and a respectable leave before 
the summer's over? You will be in for great 
things.' 

Sarratt shook his head. 

1 Not till we get more guns, and tons more shell I * 



'MISSING' 71 

* Oh, the country's waking up 1 ' 

* It's about time ! ' said Sarratt, gravely, as he 
climbed into the car. Sir William bent towards him. 

' Anything that we can do to help your wife and 
her sister, during their stay here, you may be sure 
we shall do.' 

' It's very kind of you,' said the young officer 
gratefully, as he grasped Farrell's hand. And Nelly 
sent a shy glance of thanks towards the speaker, 
while Bridget sat erect and impassive. 

Sir William watched them disappear, and then 
returned to the tea-room. He was received with a 
burst of laughter from his sister. 

'Well, Willy, so you're caught fairly caught! 
What am I to do? When am I to ask her? And 
the sister too? ' 

And lighting another cigarette, Cicely looked at 
her brother with mocking eyes. 

Farrell reddened a little, but kept his temper. 

' In a week or two I should think, you might ask 
her, when she's got over her husband's going away.' 

* They get over it very soon in general,' said 
Cicely coolly. 

' Not that sort.' 

The voice was Captain Marsworth's. 

Cicely appeared to take no notice. But her eye- 
lids flickered. Hester Martin interposed. 

' A dear, little, appealing thing,' she said, warmly 
' and her husband evidently a capital fellow. I 
didn't take to the sister but who knows? She may 



72 'MISSING' 

be an excellent creature, all the same. I'm glad I 
shall be so near them. It will be a help to that poor 
child to find her something to do.' 

Cicely laughed. 

' You think she'll hunt sphagnum and make 
bandages? I don't.' 

* Why this " thusness? " ' said Miss Martin rais- 
ing her eyebrows. ' What has made you take a 
dislike to the poor little soul, Cicely? There never 
was anyone more plainly in love ' 

' Or more to be pitied,' said the low voice in 
the background low but emphatic. 
It was now Cicely's turn to flush. 

* Of course I know I'm a beast,' she said defi- 
antly, ' but the fact is I didn't like either of them ! 
the sisters, I mean.' 

' What on earth is there to dislike in Mrs. Sar- 
ratt! ' cried Farrell. * You're quite mad, Cicely.' 

' She's too pretty,' said Miss Farrell obstinately 
* and too too simple. And nobody as pretty as 
that can be really simple. It's only pretence.' 

As she spoke Cicely rose to her feet, and began 
to put on her veil in front of one of the old mirrors. 
' But of course, Will, I shall behave nicely to 
your friends. Don't I always behave nicely to 
them?' 

She turned lightly to her brother, who looked at 
her only half appeased. 

* I shan't give you a testimonial to-day, Cicely.' 

* Then I must do without it. Well, this day three 



'MISSING' 73 

weeks, a party at Carton, for Mrs. Sarratt. Will 
that give her time to settle down ? ' 

4 Unless her husband is killed by then,' said Cap- 
tain Marsworth, quietly. * His regiment is close to 
Loos. He'll be in the thick of it directly.' 

* Oh no,' said Cicely, twisting the ends of her veil 
lightly between a finger and thumb. ' Just a " cushy " 
wound, that'll bring him home on a three months' 
leave, and give her the bore of nursing him.' 

' Cicely, you are a hard-hearted wretch ! ' said 
her brother, angrily. * I think Marsworth and I will 
go and stroll till the motor is ready.' 

The two men disappeared, and Cicely let herself 
drop into an arm-chair. Her eyes, as far as could 
be seen through her veil, were blazing; the redness 
in her cheeks had improved upon the rouge with 
which they were already touched; and the gesture 
with which she pulled on her gloves was one of excite- 
ment. 

' Cicely dear what is the matter with you ? ' said 
Miss Martin in distress. She was fond of Cicely, in 
spite of that young lady's extravagances of dress and 
manner, and she divined something gone wrong. 

' Nothing is the matter nothing at all. It is only 
necessary, sometimes, to shock people,' said Cicely, 
calming down. She threw her head back against 
the chair and closed her eyes, while her lips still 
smiled triumphantly. 

' Were you trying to shock Captain Marsworth? ' 

' It's so easy it's hardly worth doing,' said 



74 'MISSING' 

Cicely, sleepily. Then after a pause ' Ah, isn't that 
the motor?' 

Meanwhile the little hired motor from Ambleside 
had dropped the Sarratts on the Easedale road, and 
carried Bridget away in an opposite direction, to the 
silent but great relief of the newly-married pair. 
And soon the husband and wife had passed the last 
farm in the valley, and were walking up a rough 
climbing path towards Sour Milk Ghyll, and Ease- 
dale Tarn. The stream was full, and its many chan- 
nels ran white and foaming down the steep rock face, 
where it makes its chief leap to the valley. The 
summer weather held, and every tree and fell-side 
stood bathed in a warm haze, suffused with the 
declining light. All round, encircling fells in a purple 
shadow; to the north and east, great slopes appear- 
ing Helvellyn, Grisedale, Fairfield. They walked 
hand in hand where the path admitted almost si- 
lent passionately conscious of each other and of 
the beauty round them. Sometimes they stopped to 
gather a flower, or notice a bird; and then there 
would be a few words, with a meaning only for them- 
selves. And when they reached the tarn, a magical 
shadowed mirror of brown and purple water, they 
sat for long beside it, while the evening faded, and 
a breathless quiet came across the hills, stilling all 
their voices, even, one might have fancied, the voice 
of the hurrying stream itself. At the back of Nelly's 
mind there was always the same inexorable counting 



'MISSING' 75 

of the hours; and in his a profound and sometimes 
remorseful pity for this gentle creature who had 
given herself to him, together with an immense 
gratitude. 

The stars came out, and a light easterly wind 
sprang up, sending ripples across the tarn, and stir- 
ring last year's leaves among the new grass. It had 
grown chilly, and Sarratt took Nelly's blue cloak 
from his arm and wrapped her in it then in his 
arms, as she rested against him. Presently he felt 
her hand drop languidly from his, and he knew 
that not the walk, but the rush of those half-spoken 
thoughts which held them both, had brought exhaus- 
tion. 

' Darling we must go home ! ' He bent over 
her. 

She rose feebly. 

'Why am I so tired? It's absurd.' 

1 Let me carry you a little.' 

* You couldn't ! ' She smiled at him. 

But he lifted her with ease she was so small and 
slight, while in him a fresh wave of youth and 
strength had risen, with happiness, and the reaction 
of convalescence. She made no resistance, and he 
carried her down some way, through the broad min- 
gled light. Her face was hidden on his breast, and 
felt the beating of his life. She said to herself more 
than once that to die so would be bliss. The marvel 
of love bewildered her. * What was I like before 
it? what shall I be, when he is gone?' 



76 'MISSING' 

When she made him set her down, she said gaily 
that she was all right, and gave him a kiss of thanks, 
simply, like a child. The valley lay before them 
with its scattered lights, and they pressed on through 
the twilight two dim and spectral figures spirits it 
seemed, who had been on the heights sharing am- 
brosial feasts with the Immortals, and had but just 
descended to the common earth again. 

Nelly spent the next three days, outside their 
walks and boatings on the lake, in whatever wifely 
offices to her man still remained to her marking his 
new socks and khaki shirts, furnishing a small medi- 
cine chest, and packing a tin of special delicacies, 
meat lozenges, chocolate, various much advertised 
food tabloids, and his favourite biscuits. Sarratt 
laughed over them, but had not the heart to dis- 
suade her. She grew paler every day, but was always 
gay and smiling so long as his eyes were on her; and 
his sound young sleep knew nothing of her quiet 
stifled weeping at those moments of the night, when 
the bodily and nervous forces are at their lowest, and 
all the future blackens. Miss Martin paid them sev- 
eral visits, bringing them books and flowers. Books 
and flowers too arrived from Carton with a lavish 
supply of cigarettes for the departing soldier. Nelly 
had the piteous sense that everyone was sorry for 
her Mrs. Weston, the kind landlady, Milly, the 
little housemaid. It seemed to her sometimes that 
the mere strangers she met in the road knew that 



'MISSING' 77 

George was going, and looked at her compassion- 
ately. 

The last day came, showery in the morning, and 
clearing to a glorious evening, with all the new leaf 
and growing hayfields freshened by rain, and all the 
streams brimming. Bridget came over in the after- 
noon, and as she watched her sister's face, became 
almost kind, almost sympathetic. George proposed 
to walk back part of the way to Ambleside with his 
sister-in-law, and Nelly with a little frown of alarm 
watched them go. 

But the tete-a-tete was not disagreeable to either. 
Bridget was taken aback, to begin with, by some 
very liberal proposals of Sarratt's on the subject of 
her and Nelly's joint expenses during his absence. 
She was to be Nelly's guest they both wished it 
and he said kindly that he quite understood Nelly's 
marriage had made a difference to her, and he hoped 
she would let them make it up to her, as far 
and as soon as they could. Bridget was surprised 
into amiability, and Sarratt found a chance of 
saying 

* And you'll let Nelly talk about the war though 
it does bore you? She won't be able to help it 
poor child ! ' 

Bridget supposed that now she too would have 
to talk about the war. He needn't be afraid, she 
added drily. She would look after Nelly. And she 
looked so masterful and vigorous as she said it, that 
Sarratt could only believe her. 



78 'MISSING' 

They shook hands in the road, better friends to 
all seeming than they had been yet. And Nelly 
received George's account of the conversation with a 
sigh of relief. 

That night the midsummer moon would be at the 
full, and as the clouds vanished from the sky, and the 
soft purple night came down, Nelly and Sarratt 
leaving every piece of luggage behind them, packed, 
labelled, locked, and piled in the hall, ready for the 
cart that was to call for it in the early hours 
took their way to the lake and the boathouse. 
They had been out at night once before, but this 
was to be the crowning last thing the last joint 
memory. 

It was eleven o'clock before the oars dipped into 
the water, and as they neared the larger island, the 
moon, rearing its bright head over the eastern fells, 
shot a silver pathway through the lake ; and on either 
side of the pathway, the mirrored woods and crags, 
more dim and ghostly than by day, seemed to lead 
downward to that very threshold and entrance of the 
underworld, through which the blinded Theban king 
vanished from the eyes of men. Silver-bright the 
woods and fell-side, on the west; while on the east 
the woods in shadow, lay sleeping, * moon-charmed.' 
The air was balmy; and one seemed to hear through 
it the steady soft beat of the summer life, rising 
through the leaves and grass and flowers. Every 
sound was enchantment the drip of water from the 



'MISSING' 79 

oars, the hooting of an owl on the island, even the 
occasional distant voices, and tapping of horses' feet 
on the main road bordering the lake. 

Sarratt let the oars drift, and the boat glided, as 
though of its own will, past the island, and into the 
shadow beyond it. Now it was Silver How, and all 
the Grasmere mountains, that caught the ' hallow- 
ing' light. 

Nelly sat bare-headed, her elbows on her knees, 
and her face propped in her hands. She was in 
white, with a white shawl round her, and the grace 
of the slight form and dark head stirred anew in Sar- 
ratt that astonished and exquisite sense of possession 
which had been one of the main elements of con- 
sciousness, during their honeymoon. Of late indeed 
it had been increasingly met and wrestled with by 
something harsher and sterner; by the instinct of the 
soldier, of the fighting man, foreseeing a danger to 
his own will, a weakening of the fibre on which his 
effort and his power depend. There were moments 
when passionately as he loved her, he was glad to be 
going; secretly glad that the days which were in 
truth a greater test of endurance than the trenches 
were coming to an end. He must be able to trust 
himself and his own nerve to the utmost. Away 
from her, love would be only a strengthening power; 
here beside her, soul and sense contended. 

A low voice came out of the shadow. 

4 George I'm not going with you to the station.' 



So 'MISSING' 

* Best not, dearest much best.' 

A silence. Then the voice spoke again. 

1 How long will it take you, George, getting to 
the front?' 

' About twenty-four hours from the base, per- 
haps more. It's a weary business.' 

* Will you be in action at once ? ' 

* I think so. That part of the line's very short of 
men.' 

'When shall I hear?' 

He laughed. 

1 By every possible post, I should think, darling. 
You've given me post-cards enough.' 

And he tapped his breast-pocket, where lay the 
little writing-case she had furnished for every imagi- 
nable need. 

1 George ! ' 

1 Yes, darling.' 

* When you're tired, you're you're not to write.' 
He put out his long arms, and took her hands in 

his. 

' 1 shan't be tired and I shall write.' 
She looked down upon the hands holding hers. 
In each of the little fingers there was a small amus- 
ing deformity a slight crook or twist which, as is 
the way of lovers, was especially dear to her. She 
remembered once, before they were engaged, flaming 
out at Bridget, who had made mock of it. She 
stooped now, and kissed the fingers. Then she 
bowed her forehead upon them. 



'MISSING' 81 

* George ! ' he could only just hear her * I know 
Miss Martin will be kind to me and I shall 
find plenty to do. You're never to worry about 
me.' 

' I won't so long as you write to me every day.' 
There was again a silence. Then she lifted her 
head, and as the boat swung out of the shadow, the 
moonlight caught her face. 

' You'll take that Wordsworth I gave you, won't 
you, George? It'll remind you of this.' Her ges- 
ture showed the lake and the mountains. 

* Of course, I shall take it. I shall read it when- 
ever I can perhaps more for your sake than 
Wordsworth's.' 

' It'll make us remember the same things,' she 
murmured. 

' As if we wanted anything to make us remember ! ' 

* George ! ' her voice was almost a sob ' It's been 
almost too perfect. Sometimes just for that I'm 
afraid.' 

* Don't be, darling. The God we believe in isn't 
a jealous God ! That's one of the notions one grows 
out of over there.' 

' Do you think He's our friend, George that He 
really cares? ' 

The sweet appealing voice touched him unbear- 
ably. 

4 Yes, I do think it ' he said, firmly, after a 
pause. * I do believe it with all my heart.' 

' Then I'll believe it ! ' she said, with a long breath ; 



82 'MISSING' 

and there was silence again, till suddenly over the 
water came the sound of the Rydal Chapel bell, 
striking midnight. Nelly withdrew her hands and 
sat up. 

* George, we must go home. You must have a 
good night.' 

He obeyed her, took up the oars, and pulled 
swiftly to the boathouse. She sat in a kind of dream. 
It was all over, the heavenly time all done. She 
had had the very best of life could it ever come 
again? In her pain and her longing she was 
strangely conscious of growth and change. The 
Nelly of three weeks back seemed to have nothing 
to do with her present self, to be another human 
being altogether. 

He made her go to bed, and remained in the 
sitting-room himself, under pretence of some papers 
he must put in order. When the sounds in the next 
room ceased, and he knew that she must be lying still, 
waiting for him, he sat down, took pen and paper, 
and began to write to her a letter to be given to her 
if he fell. He had already written a letter of busi- 
ness directions, which was at his lawyer's. This was 
of another kind. 

* MY DARLING, this will be very short. It is 
only to tell you that if I fall if we never meet 
again, after to-morrow, you are to think first of all 
and always that you have made a man so happy 
that if no more joy can come to him on earth, he 
could die now as far as he himself fs concerned 



'MISSING' 83 

blessing God for his life. I never imagined that love 
could be so perfect. You have taught me. God 
reward you God watch over you. If I die, you will 
be very sad that will be the bitterness to me, if I 
have time to know it. But this is my last prayer to 
you to be comforted by this remembrance of what 
you have done for me what you have been to me. 
And in time, my precious one, comfort will come. 
There may be a child if so, you will love it for us 
both. But if not, you must still take comfort. You 
must be willing, for my sake, to be comforted. And 
remember : don't be angry with me, darling if in 
years to come, another true love, and another home 
should be offered you, don't refuse them Nelly! 
You were born to be loved. And if my spirit lives, 
and understands, what could it feel but joy that your 
sorrow was healed my best beloved ! 

* This will be given to you only if I die. With the 
deepest gratitude and the tenderest love that a man 
can feel, I bid you good-bye my precious wife 
good-bye ! ' 

He put it up with a steady hand, and addressed it 
first to Nelly, enclosing it in a larger envelope ad- 
dressed to his oldest friend, a school-fellow, who had 
been his best man at their marriage. Then he stole 
downstairs, unlocked the front door, and crossing the 
road in the moonlight, he put the letter into the wall 
post-box on the further side. And before re-entering 
the house, he stood a minute or two in the road, let- 



84 'MISSING' 

ting the fresh wind from the fells beat upon his face, 
and trying the while to stamp on memory the 
little white house where Nelly lay, the trees over- 
hanging it, the mountain tops beyond the garden 
wall. . 



CHAPTER V 

'T S Mrs. Sarratt in? ' asked Miss Martin of Mrs. 
Weston's little maid, Milly. 

Milly wore a look of animation, as of one 
who has been finding the world interesting. 
4 She's gone a walk over the bridge, Miss.' 
' Has she had news of Mr. Sarratt? ' 

* Yes, Miss,' said the girl eagerly. * He's all right. 
Mrs. Sarratt got a telegram just a couple of hours 
ago.' 

' And you think I shall find her by the lake? ' 
Milly thought so. Then advancing a step, she said 
confidentially 

* She's been dreadfully upset this two days, Miss. 
Not that she'd say anything. But she's looked ' 

* I know. I saw her yesterday.' 

' And it's been a job to get her to eat anything. 
Mrs. Weston's been after her with lots of things 
tasty you know, Miss to try and tempt her. But 
she wouldn't hardly look at them.' 

1 Thank you, Milly ' said Miss Martin, after a 
pause. ' Well, I'll find her. Is Miss Cookson here? ' 

Milly's candid countenance changed at once. She 
frowned it might have been said she scowled. 

' She came the day Mr. Sarratt went away, Miss. 
Well of course it's not my place to speak, Miss 
85 



86 'MISSING' 

but she don't do Mrs. Sarratt no good ! ' Miss Mar- 
tin couldn't help a smile but she shook her head 
reprovingly all the same, as she hastened away. 
Milly had been in her Sunday-school class, and they 
were excellent friends. 

Across the Rotha, she pursued a little footpath 
leading to the lakeside. It was a cold day, with 
flying clouds and gleams on hill and water. The 
bosom of Silver How held depths of purple shadow, 
but there were lights like elves at play, chasing each 
other along the Easedale fells, and the stony side of 
Nab Scar. 

Beside the water, on a rock, sat Nelly Sarratt. 
An open telegram and a bundle of letters lay on her 
lap, her hands loosely folded over them. She was 
staring at the water and the hills, with absent eyes, 
and her small face wore an expression relaxed and 
sweet like that of a comforted child, which touched 
Miss Martin profoundly. 

'So you've heard? you poor thing!' said the 
elder woman smiling, as she laid a friendly hand on 
the girl's shoulder. 

Nelly looked up and drew a long deep breath. 

1 He's all right, and the battalion's going to have 
three weeks' rest behind the lines.' 

Her dark eyes shone. Hester Martin sat down 
on the turf beside her. 

' Capital ! When did you hear last? ' 

' Just the day before the " push." Of course he 



'MISSING' 87 

couldn't tell me anything but somehow I knew. 
And then the papers since they're pretty ghastly,' 
said Nelly, with a faint laugh and a shiver. ' The 
farm under the hill there ' she pointed * you know 
about them ? ' 

* Yes. I saw them after the telegram,' said Miss 
Martin, sadly. * Of course it was the only son. 
These small families are too awful. Every married 
woman ought to have six sons ! ' 

Nelly dropped her face out of sight, shading it 
with her hands. Presently she said, in a dreamy 
voice of content 

4 1 shall get a letter to-morrow.' 

* How do you know ? ' 

Nelly held out the telegram, which said 

* All safe. Posted letter last night. Love.' 

* It can't take more than forty-eight hours to come 
can it?' Then she lifted her eyes again to the 
distant farm, with its white front and its dark patch 
of yews. 

4 1 keep thinking of their telegram ' she said, 
slowly ' and then of mine. Oh, this war is too hor- 
rible! ' She threw up her hands with a sudden wild 
gesture, and then let one of them drop into Hester 
Martin's grasp. ' In George's last letter he told 
me he had to go with a message across a bit of 
ground that was being shelled. He went with a tele- 
phonist. He crossed first. The other man was to 
wait and follow him after an interval. George got 
across, then the man with the telephone wire started, 



88 'MISSING' 

and was shot just as he reached George. He fell 
into George's arms and died. And it might have 
been George it might have been George just as 
well ! It might be George any day ! ' 

Miss Martin looked at her in perplexity. She had 
no ready-made consolations she never had. Per- 
haps it was that which made her kind wrinkled face 
such a welcome sight to those in trouble. But at last 
she said 

' It is all we women can do to be patient and 
hope not to let our courage go down.' 

Nelly shook her head. 

* I am always saying that to myself but ! when 
the news comes if it comes what good will that be 
to me ! Oh, I haven't been idle indeed I haven't,' 
she added piteously * I've worked myself tired 
every day just not to think ! ' 

' I know you have,' Miss Martin pressed the hand 
in hers. ' Well, now, he'll be all safe for a fort- 
night ' 

1 Perhaps three weeks,' Nelly corrected her, 
eagerly. Then she looked round at her new friend, 
a shy smile lighting up her face, and bringing back its 
bloom. 

* You know he writes to me nearly every day? ' 

* It's the way people have war or no war when 
they're in love,' said Hester Martin drily. ' And 
you how often ? ' 

' Every day. I haven't missed once. How could 
I? when he wants me to write when I hear so 



'MISSING 1 89 

often ! ' And her free hand closed possessively, 
greedily, over the letters in her lap. 

Hester Martin surveyed her thoughtfully. 

' I wouldn't do war-work all day, if I were you,' 
she said at last. ' Why don't you go on with your 
sketching?' 

' I was going to try this very afternoon. Sir 
William said he would give me a lesson,' was the 
listless reply. 

4 He's coming here?' 

' He said he would be walking this way, if it was 
fine,' said Nelly, indifferently. 

Both relapsed into silence. Then Miss Martin 
enquired after Bridget. The face beside her dark- 
ened a little. 

' She's very well. She knows about the telegram. 
She thought I was a great goose to be so anxious. 
She's making an index now for the book! ' 

' The psychology book? ' 

' Yes ! ' A pause then Nelly looked round, 
flushing. 

' I can't talk to Bridget you see about George 
or the war. She just thinks the world's mad that 
it's six to one and half a dozen to the other that it 
doesn't matter at all who wins so long of course as 
the Germans don't come here. And as for me, if I 
was so foolish as to marry a soldier in the middle of 
the war, why I must just take the consequences 
grin and bear it! ' 

Her tone and look showed that in her clinging 



90 'MISSING' 

way she had begun to claim the woman beside her as 
a special friend, while Hester Martin's manner 
towards her bore witness that the claim excited a 
warm response that intimacy and affection had ad- 
vanced rapidly since George Sarratt's departure. 

4 Why do you put up with it? ' said Miss Martin, 
sharply. ' Couldn't you get some cousin some 
friend to stay with you ? ' 

Nelly shook her head. * George wanted me to. 
But I told him I couldn't. It would mean a quarrel. 
I could never quarrel with Bridget.' 

Miss Martin laughed indignantly. 4 Why not if 
she makes you miserable ? ' 

1 1 don't know. I suppose I'm afraid of her. 
And besides ' the words came reluctantly ' she 
does a lot for me. I ought to be very grateful ! ' 

Yes, Hester Martin did know that, in a sense, 
Bridget did ' a lot ' for her younger sisters. It was 
not many weeks since she had made their acquaint- 
ance, but there had been time for her to see how 
curiously dependent young Mrs. Sarratt was on Miss 
Cookson. There was no real sympathy between 
them; nor could Miss Martin believe that there was 
ever much sense of kinship. But whenever there 
was anything to be done involving any friction with 
the outside world, Bridget was ready to do it, while 
Nelly invariably shrank from it. 

For instance, some rather troublesome legal busi- 
ness connected with Nelly's marriage, and the re- 
investment of a small sum of money, had descended 



'MISSING' 91 

on the young wife almost immediately after George's 
departure. She could hardly bring herself to look at 
the letter. What did it matter? Let their trustee 
settle it. To be worrying about it seemed to be some- 
how taking her mind from George to be breaking 
in on that imaginative vision of him, and his life in 
the trenches, which while it tortured her, yet filled 
the blank of his absence. So Bridget did it all 
corresponded peremptorily with their rather old and 
incompetent trustee, got all the signatures necessary 
out of Nelly, and carried the thing through. Again, 
on another and smaller occasion, Miss Martin had 
seen the two sisters confronted with a scandalous 
overcharge for the carriage of some heavy luggage 
from Manchester. Nelly was aghast; but she would 
have paid the sum demanded like a lamb, if Bridget 
had not stepped in grappled with carter and rail- 
way company, while Nelly looked on, helpless but 
relieved. 

It was clear that Nelly's inborn wish to be liked, 
her quivering responsiveness, together with a strong 
dose of natural indolence, made her hate disagree- 
ment or friction of any kind. She was always 
yielding always ready to give in. But when 
Bridget in her harsh aggravating way fought things 
out and won, Nelly was indeed often made miser- 
able, by the ricochet of the wrath roused by Bridget's 
methods upon herself; but she generally ended, all 
the same, by realising that Bridget had done her a 
service which she could not have done for herself. 



92 'MISSING' 

Hester Martin frankly thought the sister odious, 
and pitied the bride for having to live with her. All 
the same she often found herself wondering how 
Nelly would ever manage the practical business of 
life alone, supposing loneliness fell to her at any time. 
But why should it fall to her? unless indeed Sar- 
ratt were killed in action. If he survived the war 
he would make her the best of guides and husbands; 
she would have children; and her sweetness, her sen- 
sitiveness would stiffen under the impact of life to a 
serviceable toughness. But meanwhile what could 
she do poor little Ariadne ! but * live and be 
lovely ' sew and knit, and gather sphagnum moss 
dreaming half her time, and no doubt crying half the 
night. What dark circles already round the beauti- 
ful eyes! And how transparent were the girl's 
delicate hands! Miss Martin felt that she was 
watching a creature on whom love had been acting 
with a concentrated and stimulating energy, bringing 
the whole being suddenly and rapidly into flower. 
And now, what had been only stimulus and warmth 
had become strain, and, sometimes, anguish, or fear. 
The poor drooping plant could with difficulty main- 
tain itself. 

For the moment however, Nelly, in her vast relief, 
was ready to talk and think of quite ordinary 
matters. 

' Bridget is in a good temper with me to-day ! ' 
she said presently, looking with a smile at her com- 
panion' because since the telegram came I told 



'MISSING' 93 

her I would accept Miss Farrell's invitation to go 
and spend a Sunday with them.' 

4 Well, it might distract you. But you needn't 
expect to get much out of Cicely! ' 

The old face lit up with its tolerant, half-sarcastic 
smile. 

' I shall be dreadfully afraid of her ! ' said Nelly. 

' No need to be. William will keep her in order. 
She is a foolish woman, Cicely, and her own worst 
enemy, but somehow ' The speaker paused. She 
was about to say ' somehow I am fond of her ' 
when she suddenly wondered whether the remark 
would be true, and stopped herself. 

* I think she's very very good-looking ' said 
Nelly, heartily. * Only, why ' she hesitated, but 
her half-laughing look continued the sentence. 

* Why does she blacken her eyebrows, and paint 
her lips, and powder her cheeks? Is that what you 
mean?' 

Nelly's look was apologetic. ' She doesn't really 
want it, does she ? ' she said shyly, as though remem- 
bering that she was speaking to a kinswoman of the 
person discussed. ' She could do so well without it.' 

' No to be quite candid, I don't think she would 
look so well without it. That's the worst of it. It 
seems to suit her to be made up ! though everybody 
knows it is make-up.' 

4 Of course, if George wanted me to " make up," 
I should do it at once,' said Nelly, thoughtfully, 
propping her chin on her hands, and staring at the 



94 'MISSING' 

lake. * But he hates it. Is is Miss Farrell ' 
she looked round * in love with anybody? ' 

Miss Martin laughed. 

* I'll leave you to find out when you go there. 
So if your husband liked you to paint and powder, 
you would do it ? ' 

The older woman looked curiously at her com- 
panion. As she sat there, on a rock above the lake, 
in a grey nurse's dress with a nurse's bonnet tied 
under her chin, Hester Martin conveyed an impres- 
sion of rugged and unconscious strength which 
seemed to fuse her with the crag behind her. She 
had been gathering sphagnum moss on the fells 
almost from sunrise that morning; and by tea-time 
she was expecting a dozen munition-workers from 
Barrow, whom she was to house, feed and * do for,' 
in her little cottage over the week-end. In the inter- 
val, she had climbed the steep path to that white 
farm where death had just entered, and having 
mourned with them that mourn, she had come now, 
as naturally, to rejoice with Nelly Sarratt. 

Nelly considered her question, but not in any 
doubtfulness of mind. 

' Indeed, I would,' she said, decidedly. * Isn't it 
my duty to make George happy? ' 

' What " George " ? If Mr. Sarratt wanted you 
to paint and powder ' 

'He wouldn't be the "George" I married? 
There's something in that! ' laughed Nelly. Then 
she lifted her hand to shade her eyes against the 



'MISSING' 95 

westering sun 'Isn't that Sir William coming?' 

She pointed doubtfully to a distant figure walking 
along the path that skirts the western edge of the 
lake. Miss Martin put up her glasses. 

4 Certainly. Coming no doubt to give you a les- 
son. But where are your sketching things ? ' 

Nelly rose in a hurry. 

* I forgot about them when I came out. The 

telegram ' She pressed her hands to her eyes, 

with a long breath. 

4 I'll run back for them. Will you tell him ? ' 

She departed, and Hester awaited her cousin. 
He came slowly along the lake, his slight lameness 
just visible in his gait otherwise a splendid figure 
of a man, with a bare head, bearded and curled, like 
a Viking in a drawing by William Morris. He car- 
ried various artist's gear slung about him, and an 
alpenstock. His thoughts were apparently busy, for 
he came within a few yards of Hester Martin, be- 
fore he saw her. 

' Hullo ! Hester you here ? I came to get some 
news of Mrs. Sarratt and her husband. Is he all 
right?' 

Hester repeated the telegram, and added the 
information that seeing him coming, Mrs. Sarratt 
had gone in search of her sketching things. 

' Ah ! I thought if she'd got good news she 
might like to begin,' said Farrell. ' Poor thing 
she's lucky ! Our casualties these last few days have 
been awful, and the gain very small. Men or guns 



9 6 'MISSING' 

that's our choice just now. And it will be months 
before we get the guns. So practically, there's no 
choice. Somebody ought to be hung ! ' 

He sat down frowning. But his face soon cleared, 
and he began to study the point of view. 

' Nothing to be made of it but a picture post- 
card,' he declared. * However I daresay she'll want 
to try it. They always do the beginners. The 
more ambitious and impossible the thing, the better.' 

' Why don't you teach her ? ' said Hester, severely. 

Farrell laughed. 

' Why I only want to amuse her, poor little soul ! ' 
he said, as he put his easel together. * Why should 
she take it seriously?' 

1 She's more intelligence than you think.' 

'Has she? What a pity! There are so many 
intelligent people in the world, and so few pretty 
ones.' 

He spoke with a flippant self-confidence that an- 
noyed his cousin. But she knew very well that she 
was poorly off in the gifts that were required to 
scourge him. And there already was the light form 
of Nelly, on the footbridge over the river. Farrell 
looked up and saw her coming. 

' Extraordinary the grace of the little thing! ' he 
sr.id, half to himself, half to Hester. * And she 
knows nothing about it or seems to.' 

* Do you imagine that her husband hasn't told 
her?' Hester's tone was mocking. 

Farrell looked up in wonder. 



'MISSING' 97 

* Sarratt? of course he has so far as he has eyes 
to see it. But he has no idea how remarkable it is.' 

'What? His wife's beauty? Nonsense!' 

'How could he? It wants a trained eye,' said 
Farrell, quite serious. ' Hush ! here she comes.' 

Nelly came up breathlessly, laden with her own 
paraphernalia. Farrell at once perceived that she 
was pale and hollow-eyed. But her expression was 
radiant. 

' How kind of you to come ! ' she said, looking 
up at him. ' You know I've had good news splen- 
did news?' 

' I do indeed. I came to ask,' he said gravely. 
' He's out of it for a bit? ' 

' Yes, for three weeks ! ' 

' So you can take a rest from worrying? ' 

She nodded brightly, but she was not yet quite 
mistress of her nerves, and her face quivered. He 
turned away, and began to set his palette, while she 
seated herself. 

Hester watched the lesson for half an hour, till it 
was time to go and make ready for her munition- 
workers. And she watched it with increasing pleas- 
ure, and increasing scorn of a certain recurrent un- 
easiness she had not been able to get rid of. Nothing 
could have been better than Farrell's manner to 
Ariadne. It was friendly, chivalrous, respectful 
all it should be with a note of protection, of un- 
spoken sympathy, which, coming from a man nearly 
twenty years older than the little lady herself, was 



98 'MISSING' 

both natural and attractive. He made an excellent 
teacher besides, handling her efforts with a mixture 
of criticism and praise, which presently roused 
Nelly's ambition, and kindled her cheeks and eyes. 
Time flew and when Hester Martin rose to leave 
them, Nelly cried out in protest ' It can't be five 
o'clock!' 

' A quarter to just time to get home before my 
girls arrive ! * 

' Oh, and I must go too,' said Nelly regretfully. 
' I promised Bridget I would be in for tea. But I 
was getting on wasn't I ? ' She turned to Farrell. 

' Swimmingly. But you've only just begun. Next 
time the sitting must be longer.' 

* Will you will you come in to tea ? ' she asked 
him shyly. * My sister would be very glad.' 

' Many thanks but I' am afraid I can't. I shall 
be motoring back to Carton to-night. To-morrow is 
one of my hospital days. I told you how I divided 
my week, and salved my conscience.' 

He smiled down upon her from his great height, 
his reddish gold hair and beard blown by the wind, 
and she seemed to realise him as a great, manly, 
favouring presence, who made her feel at ease. 

Hester Martin had already vanished over the 
bridge, and Farrell and Nelly strolled back more 
leisurely towards the lodgings, he carrying her can- 
vas sketching bag. 

On the way she conveyed to him her own and 
Bridget's acceptance of the Carton invitation. 



'MISSING' 99 

' If Miss Farrell won't mind our clothes or 
rather our lack of them ! I did mean to have my 
wedding dress altered into an evening dress 
but! ' 

She lifted her hand and let it fall, in a sad signifi- 
cant gesture which pleased his fastidious eye. 

* You hadn't even the time of the heart for it? 
I should think not ! ' he said warmly. ' Who cares 
about dress nowadays?' 

' Your sister ! ' thought Nelly but aloud she 
said 

4 Well then we'll come we'll be delighted to 
come. May I see the hospital?' 

* Of course. It's like any other hospital.' 

'Is it very full now?' she asked him uneasily, 
her bright look clouding. 

* Yes but it ebbs and flows. Sometimes for a 
day or two all our men depart. Then there is a great 
rush.' 

1 Are they bad cases?' 

There was an unwilling insistence in her voice, as 
though her mind dealt with images it would gladly 
have put away, but could not. 

* A good many of them. They send them us as 
straight as they can from the front. But the sur- 
geons are wonderfully skilful. It's simply marvelous 
what they can do.' 

He seemed to see a shiver pass through her slight 
shoulders, and he changed the subject at once. The 
Carton motor should come for her and her sister, he 



ioo 'MISSING' 

said, whenever they liked, the following Saturday 
afternoon. The run would take about an hour. 
Meanwhile 

* Do you want any more books or magazines? ' he 
asked her smiling, with the look of one only eager to 
be told how to serve her. They had paused in the 
road outside the lodgings. 

' Oh ! how could we ! You sent us such a bundle ! ' 
cried Nelly gratefully. ' We are always finding 
something new in it. It makes the evenings so dif- 
ferent. We will bring them back when we come.' 

' Don't hurry. And go on with the drawing. I 
shall expect to see it a great deal further on next 
time. It's all right so far.' 

He went his way back, speedily, taking a short 
cut over Loughrigg to his cottage. His thoughts, 
as he climbed, were very full of Mrs. Sarratt. But 
they were the thoughts of an artist of a man who 
had studied beauty, and the European tradition of 
beauty, whether in form or landscape, for many 
years; who had worked a contre cosur in a Paris 
studio, and had copied Tintoret fervently in 
Venice; who had been a collector of most things, 
from Tanagra figures to Delia Robbias. She made 
an impression upon him in her lightness and grace, 
her small proportions, her lissomness of outline, 
very like that of a Tanagra figure. How had she 
come to spring from Manchester? What kindred 
had she with the smoke and grime of a great business 
city? He fell into amused speculation. Manchester 



'MISSING' 101 

has always possessed colonies of Greek merchants. 
Somewhere in the past was there some strain of 
southern blood which might account for her? He 
remembered a beautiful Greek girl at an Oxford 
Commemoration, when he had last attended that 
function; the daughter of a Greek financier settled 
in London, whose still lovely mother had been drawn 
and painted interminably by the Burne Jones and 
William Morris group of artists. She was on a 
larger scale than Mrs. Sarratt, but the colour of the 
flesh was the same as though light shone through 
alabaster and the sweetness of the deep-set eyes. 
Moreover she had produced much the same effect on 
the bystander, as of a child of nature, a creature of 
impulse and passion passion, clinging and self- 
devoted, not fierce and possessive through all the 
more superficial suggestions of reticence and self- 
control. ' This little creature is only at the begin- 
ning of her life ' he thought, with a kind of pity 
for her very softness and exquisiteness. * What the 
deuce will she have made of it, by the end? Why 
should such beings grow old?' 

His interest in her led him gradually to other 
thoughts partly disagreeable, partly philosophical. 
He had once and only once found himself in- 
volved in a serious love-affair, which, as it had left 
him a bachelor, had clearly come to no good. It 
was with a woman much older than himself gifted 
more or less famous a kind of modern Corinne 
whom he had met for a month in Rome in his first 



102 'MISSING' 

youth. Corinne had laid siege to him, and he had 
eagerly, whole-heartedly succumbed. He saw him- 
self, looking back, as the typically befooled and 
bamboozled mortal; for Corinne, in the end, had 
thrown him over for a German professor, who ad- 
mired her books and had a villa on the Janiculum. 
During the eighteen years which had elapsed since 
their adventure, he had quite made it up with her, 
and had often called at the Janiculan villa, with its 
antiques, its window to the view, and the great Judas 
tree between it and Rome. His sense of escape 
which grew upon him was always tempered by a 
keen respect for the lady's disinterestedness, and 
those high ideals which must have led her for what 
else could? to prefer the German professor, who 
had so soon become decrepit, to himself. But the 
result of it all had been that the period of highest 
susceptibility and effervescence had passed by, leav- 
ing him still unmarried. Since then he had had many 
women-friends, following harmlessly a score of 
' chance desires ' ! But he had never wanted to 
marry anybody; and the idea of surrendering the 
solitude and independence of his pleasant existence 
had now become distasteful to him. Renan in some 
late book speaks of his life as * cette charmante 
promenade a travers la realite.' Farrell could have 
adopted much the same words about his own until 
the war. The war had made him think a good deal, 
like Sarratt; though the thoughts of a much travelled, 
epicurean man of the world were naturally very dif- 



'MISSING' 103 

ferent from those of the young soldier. At least 
' the surge and thunder ' of the struggle had de- 
veloped in Farrell a new sensitiveness, a new unrest, 
as though youth had returned upon him. The easy, 
drifting days of life before the catastrophe were 
gone. The * promenade ' was no longer charming. 
But the jagged and broken landscape through which 
it was now taking him, held him often like so many 
others breathless with strange awes, strange ques- 
tionings. And all the more, because, owing to his 
physical infirmity, he must be perforce a watcher, a 
discontented watcher, rather than an actor, in the 
great scene. 

That night Nelly, sitting at her open window, with 
starlight on the lake, and the cluster rose sending its 
heavy scent into the room wrote to her husband. 

1 My darling it is just a little more than eight 
hours since I got your telegram. Sometimes it 
seems like nothing and then like days days of 
happiness. I was 'very anxious. But I know I 
oughtn't to write about that. You say it helps you 
if I keep cheerful, and always expect the best and 
not the worst. Indeed, George, I do keep cheerful. 
Ask Miss Martin ask Bridget ' 

At this point two splashes fell, luckily not on the 
letter, but on the blotting paper beside it, and Nelly 
hastily lifted her handkerchief to dry a pair of swim- 
ming eyes. 

' But he can't see he won't know ! ' she thought, 



104 'MISSING' 

apologising to herself; yet wrestling at the same time 
with the sharp temptation to tell him exactly how she 
had suffered, that he might comfort her. But she 
repelled it. Her moral sense told her that she ought 
to be sustaining and strengthening him rather than 
be hanging upon him the burden of her own fears 
and agonies. 

She went on bravely 

1 Of course, after the news in the paper this morn- 
ing, and yesterday I was worried till I heard. I 
knew at any rate I guessed you must have been in 
it all. And now you are safe, my own own! for 
three whole blessed weeks. Oh, how well I shall 
sleep all that time and how much work I shall do ! 
But it won't be all war-work. Sir William Farrell 
came over to-day, and showed me how to begin a 
drawing of the lake. I shall finish it for your birth- 
day, darling. Of course you won't want to be 
bothered with it out there. I shall keep it till you 
come. The lake is so beautiful to-night, George. It 
is warmer again, and the stars are all out. The 
mountains are so blue and quiet the water so still. 
But for the owls, everything seems asleep. But they 
call and call and the echo goes round the lake. I 
can just see the island, and the rocks round which 
the boat drifted that last night. How good you 
were to me how I loved to sit and look at you, with 
the light on your dear face and the oars hanging 
and the shining water 

1 And then I think of where you are and what 



'MISSING' 105 

you have been seeing in that awful fighting. But 
not for long. I try to put it away. 

' George, darling ! you know what you said when 
you went away what you hoped might come to 
make us both happy and take my thoughts off the 
war? But, dear, it isn't so you mustn't hope it 
I shall be dreadfully sorry if you are disappointed. 
But you'll only find me your own Nelly not 
changed a bit when you come back. 

* I want to hear everything when you write how 
your men did whether you took any prisoners, 
whether there was ammunition enough, or whether 
you were short again? I feel every day that I ought 
to go and make munitions but somehow I can't. 
We are going to Carton on Saturday. Bridget is 
extremely pleased. I rather dread it. But I shall 
be able to write you a long letter about it on Sunday 
morning, instead of going to church. There is Rydal 
chapel striking twelve ! My darling my darling ! 
good-night.' 



CHAPTER VI 

THE following Saturday afternoon, at three 
o'clock, the Carton motor duly arrived at the 
Rydal cottage door. It was a hot summer 
day, the mountains colourless and small under their 
haze of heat, the woods darkening already towards 
the August monotony, the streams low and shrunken. 
Lakeland was at the moment when the artists who 
haunt her would rather not paint her, remembering 
the subtleties of spring, and looking forward to the 
pageantry of autumn. But for the eye that loves her 
she has beauties enough at any time, and no blanch- 
ing heat and dust can spoil the lovely or delicate 
things that lie waiting in the shade of her climbing 
oak-woods or on her bare fells, or beside her still 
lakes. 

Nelly took her seat in the landaulette, with Bridget 
beside her. Milly and Mrs. Weston admiringly 
watched their departure from the doorway of the 
lodgings, and they were soon speeding towards Gras- 
mere and Dunmail Raise. Nelly's fresh white dress, 
aided by the blue coat and shady hat which George 
had thought so ravishing, became her well; and she 
was girlishly and happily aware of it. Her spirits 
were high, for there in the little handbag on her 
wrist lay George's last letter, received that morning, 

106 



'MISSING' 107 

short and hurried, written just to catch the post, on 
his arrival at the rest camp, thirty miles behind the 
line. Heart-ache and fear, if every now and then 
their black wings brushed her, and far within, a 
nerve quivered, were mostly quite forgotten. Youth, 
the joy of being loved, the joy of mere living, re- 
claimed her. 

Bridget beside her, in a dark blue cotton, with a 
very fashionable hat, looked more than her thirty 
years, and might almost have been taken for Nelly's 
mother. She sat erect, her thin straight shoulders 
carrying her powerful head and determined face; 
and she noticed many things that quite escaped her 
sister: the luxury of the motor for instance; the 
details of the Farrell livery worn by the two dis- 
charged soldiers who sat in front as chauffeur and 
footman; and the evident fact that while small folk 
must go without servants, the rich seemed to have 
no difficulty in getting as many as they wanted. 

' I wonder what this motor cost? ' she said pres- 
ently in a speculative tone, as they sped past the 
turn to Grasmere church and began to ascend the 
pass leading to Keswick. 

'Well, we know about don't we?' said Nelly 
vaguely. And she guessed a sum, at which Bridget 
looked contemptuous. 

' More than that, my dear! However of course 
it doesn't matter to them.' 

* Don't you think people look at us sometimes, 
as though we were doing something wrong? ' said 



io8 'MISSING' 

Nelly uneasily. They had just passed two old 
labourers fine patriarchal fellows who had paused 
a moment to gaze at the motor and the two ladies. 

* I suppose it's because because we look so smart.' 

1 Well, why shouldn't we?' 

* Because it's war-time I suppose,' said Nelly 
slowly ' and perhaps their sons are fighting ' 

'We're not fighting! ' 

' No but .' With a slight frown, Nelly tried 

to express herself. ' It looks as if we were just liv- 
ing as usual, while Oh, you know, Bridget, what 
people think! how everybody's trying not to spend 
money on themselves.' 

'Are they?' Bridget laughed aloud. 'Look at 
all the dress advertisements in the papers. Why, 
yesterday, when I was having tea with those people 
at Windermere, there was a man there telling lots 
of interesting things. He said he knew some great 
merchants in the city, who had spent thousands and 
thousands on furs expensive furs the summer be- 
fore the war. And they thought they'd all have been 
left on their hands, that they'd have lost heavily. 
And instead of that they sold them all, and made a 
real big profit! ' 

Bridget turned an almost triumphant look on her 
sister, as though the coup described had been her 
own. 

' Well, it isn't right ! ' said Nelly, passionately. 

* It isn't it isn't Bridget ! When the war's costing 
so much and people are suffering and dying ' 



'MISSING' 109 

* Oh, I know ! ' said Bridget hastily. ' You needn't 
preach to me my dear child. I only wanted you to 
look at facts. You're always so incurably senti- 
mental ! ' 

* I'm not ! ' Nelly protested, helplessly. ' We 
make the facts. If nobody bought the furs, the facts 
would be different. George says it's wicked to squan- 
der money, and live as if everything were just the 
same as it used to be. And I agree with him! ' 

1 Of course you do ! ' laughed Bridget. ' You 
don't squander money, my dear ! ' 

' Only because I haven't got it to spend, you 
mean ? ' said Nelly, flushing. 

4 No but you should look at things sensibly. The 
people who are making money are spending it 
oceans of it ! And the people who have money, like 
the Farrells, are spending it too. Wait till you see 
how they live 1 ' 

4 But there's the hospital ! ' cried Nelly. 

Bridget shrugged her shoulders. 

4 That's because they can afford to give the hos- 
pital, and have the motor-cars too. If they had to 
choose between hospitals and motor-cars ! ' 

4 Lots of people do ! ' 

4 You think Sir William Farrell looks like doing 
without things?' said Bridget, provokingly. Then 
she checked herself. 4 Of course I like Sir William 
very much. But then / don't see why he shouldn't 
have motor-cars or any other nice thing he wants.' 

4 That's because you don't think enough you 



no 'MISSING' 

never think enough about the war ! ' said Nelly, 
insistently. 

Bridget's look darkened. 

' I would stop the war to-morrow I would make 
peace to-morrow if I could you know I would. It 
will destroy us all ruin us all. It's sheer, stark 
lunacy. There, you know what I think! ' 

'I don't see what it's ever cost you, Bridget!' 
said Nelly, breathing fast. 

* Oh, well, it's very easy to say that but it isn't 
argument.' 

Bridget's deep-set penetrating eyes glittered as she 
turned them on her sister. * However, for goodness' 
sake, don't let's quarrel about it. It's a lovely day, and 
we don't often have a motor like this to drive in ! ' 

The speaker leant back, giving herself up to the 
sensuous pleasure of the perfectly hung car, and the 
rapid movement through the summer air. Wythburn 
and Thirlmere were soon passed; leaving them just 
time to notice the wrack and ruin which Manchester 
has made of the once lovely shore of Thirlmere, 
where hideous stretches of brown mud, and the ruins 
of long submerged walls and dwellings, reappear 
with every dry summer to fling reproach in the face 
of the destroyer. 

Now they were on the high ground above Kes- 
wick; and to the west and north rose a superb con- 
fusion of mountain-forms, peaked and rounded and 
cragged, with water shining among them, and the 
silver cloud wreaths looped and threaded through 



'MISSING' in 

the valleys, leaving the blue or purple tops suspended, 
high in air, unearthly and alone, to parley with the 
setting sun. Not yet setting indeed but already 
flooding the west with a glory in which the further 
peaks had disappeared burnt away; a shining holo- 
caust to the Gods of Light and Fire. 

Then a sharp descent, a run through Keswick, 
another and a tamer lake, a sinking of the mountain- 
forms, and they were nearing the woods of Carton. 
Both sisters had been silent for some time. Nelly 
was wrapt in thoughts of George. Would he get 
leave before Christmas? Suppose he were wounded 
slightly just a wound that would send him home, 
and let her nurse him? a wound from which he 
would be sure to get well not too quickly! She 
could not make up her mind to wish it to pray for 
it it seemed like tempting Providence. But how 
she had envied a young couple whom she sometimes 
met walking on the Ambleside road ! a young pri- 
vate of one of the Border regiments, with a bandaged 
arm, and his sweetheart. Once with that new free- 
masonry which the war has brought about, she had 
stopped to speak to them. The boy had been quite 
ready to talk about his wound. It had seemed noth- 
ing at first just a fragment of shrapnel he had 
scarcely known he was hit. But abscess after abscess 
had formed a leading nerve had been injured it 
might be months before he could use it again. And 
meanwhile the plain but bright-faced girl beside him 
was watching over him; he lodged with her parents 



ii2 'MISSING' 

as his own were dead; and they were to be married 
soon. No chance of his going out again ! The girl's 
father would give him work in his garage. They 
had the air of persons escaped from shipwreck and 
ashamed almost of their own secret happiness, while 
others were still battling with and sinking in the 
waves. 

A flowery lodge, a long drive through green 
stretches of park, with a heatfier fell for background 
and then the motor, leaving to one side a huge 
domed pile with the Union Jack floating above it, 
ran through a wood, and drew up in front of Carton 
Cottage, a low building on the steps of which stood 
Sir William Farrell. 

' Delighted to see you ! Come in, and let 
Cicely give you some tea. They'll see to your 
luggage ! ' 

He led in Nelly, and Bridget followed, glancing 
from side to side, with an eye shrewdly eager, an eye 
that took in and appraised all it saw. A cottage 
indeed ! It had been built by Sir William's father, 
for his only sister, a maiden lady, to whom he was 
much attached. 'Aunt Sophy' had insisted on a 
house to herself, being a person of some ruggedness 
and eccentricity of character and averse to any sort 
of dependence on other people's ways and habits. 
But she had allowed her brother to build and furnish 
the cottage for her as lavishly as he pleased, and 
during his long widowhood she had been of much 



'MISSING' 113 

help to him in the management of the huge house- 
hold at Carton Hall, and in the bringing up of his 
two children. After her death, the house had re- 
mained empty for some time, till, six months after 
the outbreak of war, Farrell had handed over the 
Hall to the War Office, and he and his sister had 
migrated to the smaller house. 

Bridget was aware, as she followed her sister, of 
rooms small but numerous opening out on many 
sides, of long corridors with glistening teak floors, of 
windows open to a garden ablaze with roses. Sir 
William led them to what seemed a buzz of voices, 
and opened a door. 

Cicely Farrell rose languidly from a table sur- 
rounded by laughing young men, and advanced to 
meet the newcomers. Nelly found herself shaking 
hands with the Captain Marsworth she had seen at 
Loughrigg Tarn, and being introduced by Sir Wil- 
liam to various young officers, some in khaki, 
visitants from a neighbouring camp, and some from 
the Hall, in various forms of convalescent undress, 
grey flannel suits, khaki tunics with flannel ' slacks,' 
or full khaki, as the wearers pleased. The little lady 
in white had drawn all the male eyes upon her as she 
came in, and those who rapidly resumed their talk 
with Miss Farrell or each other, interrupted by the 
entrance of the newcomers, were no less aware of her 
than those who, with Farrell, devoted themselves to 
supply the two sisters with tea. 

Nelly herself, extremely shy, but sustained some- 



ii 4 'MISSING' 

how by the thought that she must hold her own in 
this new world, was soon deep in conversation with 
a charming youth, who owned a long, slightly lantern- 
jawed face and fair hair, moved on crutches with a 
slung knee, and took everything including his wound 
as ' funny.' 

'Where is your husband?' he asked her. 'Sir 
William thinks he is somewhere near Festubert? 
My hat, the Lanchesters have been having a hot time 
there ! funny, isn't it ? But they'll be moved to 
an easier job soon. They're always in luck the 
Lanchesters funny, I call it? what? I wouldn't 
worry if I were you. Your husband's got through 
this all right mightn't have another such show for 
ages. These things are awful chancey funny, isn't 
it? Oh, my wound? well, it was just when I was 
getting over the parados to move back to billets 
that the brute got me. Funny, wasn't it? Hullo ! 
here's a swell ! My hat! it's General Torr ! ' 

Nelly looked up bewildered to see a group of 
officers enter the room, headed by a magnificent 
soldier, with light brown hair, handsome features, 
and a broad be-ribboned chest. Miss Farrell greeted 
him and his comrades with her best smiles; and 
Nelly observed her closely, as she stood laughing 
and talking among them. Sir William's sister was in 
uniform, if it could be called a uniform. She wore a 
nurse's cap and apron over a pale blue dress of some 
soft crapey material. The cap was a square of fine 
lawn, two corners of which were fastened under the 



'MISSING' iiSi 

chin with a brooch consisting of one large pearl. The 
open throat showed a single string of fine pearls, and 
diamonds sparkled in the small ears. Edging the 
cap on the temples and cheeks were little curls a la 
Henrietta Maria and the apron, also of the finest 
possible lawn, had a delicately embroidered edge. 
The lips of the wearer had been artificially reddened, 
her eyebrows and eyelids had been skilfully pencilled, 
her cheeks rouged. A more extraordinary specimen 
of the nursing sisterhood it would have been im- 
possible to find. Nevertheless the result was, beyond 
gainsaying, both amusing and picturesque. The lad 
beside Nelly watched Miss Farrell with a broad grin. 
On the other hand, a lady in a thin black dress and 
widow's veil, who was sitting near Bridget, turned 
away after a few minutes' observation of the hostess, 
and with a curling lip began to turn over a book 
lying on a table near her. But whether the onlookers 
admired or disapproved, there could be no question 
that Miss Farrell held the field. 

* I am very glad to hear that Mrs. Sarratt has 
good news of her husband ! ' said Captain Mars- 
worth courteously to Bridget, hardly able to make 
himself heard however amid the din and laughter of 
the central group. He too had been watching Cicely 
Farrell but with a wholly impassive countenance. 
Bridget made some indifferent answer, and then 
eagerly asked who the visitors were. She was told 
that they were officers from a neighbouring camp, 
including the general commanding the camp. Sir 



n6 'MISSING' 

William, said Captain Marsworth, had built the 
whole camp at his own expense, and on his 
own land, without waiting for any government 
contractor. 

* I suppose he is so enormously rich he can do 
.anything he wants ! ' said Bridget, her face kindling. 

* It must be grand never to think what you spend.' 

Captain Marsworth was a trifle taken aback by 
the remark, as Sir William was barely a couple of 
yards away. 

' Yes, I daresay it's convenient,' he said, lightly. 

* And what do you find to do with yourself at 
Rydal?' 

Bridget informed him briefly that she was correct- 
ing some proof-sheets for a friend, and would then 
have an index to make. 

Captain Marsworth looked at her curiously. 

4 May one ask what the book is?' 

* It's something new about psychology,' said 
Bridget, calmly. ' It's going to be a great deal talked 
about. My friend's awfully clever.' 

' Ah ! Doesn't she find it a little difficult to think 
about psychology just now? ' 

' Why should she ? Somebody's got to think about 
psychology,' was the sharp reply. * You can't let 
everything go, because there's a war.' 

* I see ! You remind me of a man I know, who's 
translating Dante. He's just over military age, and 
there he sits in a Devonshire valley, with a pile of 
books. I happen to know a particular department in 



'MISSING' 117 

a public office that's a bit hustled for want of men, 
and I suggested that he should lend a hand. He said 
it was his business to keep culture going!' 

'Well?' said Bridget 

The challenging obstinacy of her look daunted 
him. He laughed. 

' You think it natural and right to take the war 
like that?' 

' Well, I don't see who's got a right to interfere 
with you if you do,' she said, stiffly. Then, however, 
it occurred even to her obtuse and self-centred per- 
ception, that she was saying something unexpected 
and distasteful to a man who was clearly a great 
friend of the Farrells, and therefore a member of 
the world she envied. So she changed the subject. 

'Does Miss Farrell ever do any real nursing?' 
she asked abruptly. 

Captain Marsworth's look became, in a moment, 
reserved and cold. ' She's always ready to do any- 
thing for any of us ! ' 

Then the speaker rose. ' I see Sir William's 
preparing to take your sister into the gardens. 
You certainly ought to see them. They're very 
famous.' 

The party streamed out into the paths leading 
through a wood, and past a series of water-lily pools 
to the walled gardens. Sir William walked in front 
with Nelly. 

' My brother's new craze 1 ' said Cicely in the ear 



n8 'MISSING' 

of the General beside her, who being of heroic pro- 
portions had to stoop some way to hear the remark. 
He followed the direction of her eyes. 

* What, that little woman? A vision! Is it only 
looks, or is there something besides? ' 

Cicely shrugged her shoulders. 
' I don't know. I haven't found out. The sister's 
plain, disagreeable, stupid.' 
1 She looks rather clever.' 

* Doesn't that show she's stupid? Nobody ought 
to look clever. Do you admire Mrs. Sarratt? ' 

* Can one help it? Or are you going also to main- 
tain,' laughed the general, ' that no one can be beau- 
tiful who looks it? ' 

* One could maintain it easily. The best kind of 
beauty has always to be discovered. What do you 
think, Captain Marsworth?' 

She turned provokingly to the soldier on her 
left hand. 

* About beauty? ' He looked up listlessly. ' I've 
no idea. The day's too hot.' 

Cicely eyed him. 

4 You're tired!' she said peremptorily. 'You've 
been doing too much. You ought to go and rest.' 

He smiled, and standing back he let them pass 
him. Turning into a side path he disappeared 
towards the hospital. 

* Poor old fellow ! he still looks very delicate,' 
said the General. * How is he really getting on? ' 

' The arm's improving. He's having massage and 



'MISSING' 119 

electricity. Sometimes he seems perfectly well,' said 
Cicely. An oddly defiant note had crept into the last 
sentence. 

' He looks down out of spirits. Didn't he lose 
nearly all his friends at Neuve Chapelle?' 

* Yes, some of his best friends.' 

* And half the battalion ! He always cared enor- 
mously about his men. He and I, you know, fought 
in South Africa together. Of course then he was 
just a young subaltern. He's a splendid chap ! I'm 
afraid he won't get to the front again. But of 
course they'll find him something at home. He ought 
to marry get a wife to look after him. By the way, 
somebody told me there was some talk about him 
and the daughter of the rector here. A nice little 
girl. Do you know her? ' 

* Miss Stewart? Yes.' 

* What do you think of her? ' 

1 A little nincompoop. Quite harmless ! ' 

The handsome hero smiled unseen by his com- 
panion. 

Meanwhile Farrell was walking with Nelly 
through the stately series of walled gardens, which 
his grandfather had planned and carried out, mainly 
it seemed for the boredom of the grandson. 

'What do we want with all these things now?' 
he said, waving an impatient hand, as he and Nelly 
stood at the top flight of steps looking down upon the 
three gardens sloping to the south, with their frag- 
ments of statuary, and old leaden statuettes, ranged 



120 'MISSING' 

along the central walks. ' They're all out of date. 
They were before the war; and the war has given 
them the coup de grace. No more big estates no 
more huge country houses! My grandfather built 
and built, for the sake of building, and I pay for his 
folly. After the war ! what sort of a world shall 
we tumble into ! ' 

* I don't want these gardens destroyed ! ' said 
Nelly, looking up at him. ' No one ought to spoil 
them. They're far too beautiful ! * 

She was beginning to speak with more freedom, 
to be less afraid of him. The gap between her small 
provincial experience and modes of thought, and his, 
was narrowing. Each was beginning to discover the 
inner personality of the other. And the more Farrell 
explored her the more charmed he was. She was 
curiously ignorant, whether of books or life. Even 
the busy commercial life amid which she had been 
brought up, as it seemed to him, she had observed 
but little. When he asked her questions about Man- 
chester, she was generally vague or puzzled. He 
saw that she was naturally romantic; and her passion 
for the absent Sarratt, together with her gnawing 
anxiety about him which could not be concealed, 
made her, again, very touching in the eyes of a man 
of imagination whose feelings were quick and soft. 
He walked about with her for more than an hour, 
discoursing ironically on the Grecian temples, the 
rustic bridges and pools and fountains, now in imi- 
tation of the older Versailles and now of the Tria- 



'MISSING' 121 

non, with which his grandfather had burdened his 
descendants; so that the glorious evening, as it de- 
scended, presently became a merry duel between him 
and her, she defending and admiring his own pos- 
sessions, and he attacking them. Her eyes sparkled, 
and a bright red a natural red came back into 
her pale cheeks. She spoke and moved with an evi- 
dent exhilaration, as though she realised her own 
developing powers, and was astonished by her own 
readiness of speech, and the sheer pleasure of talk. 
And something, no doubt, entered in of the new 
scene; its scale and magnificence, so different from 
anything she had yet known; its suggestion of a 
tradition reaching back through many generations, 
and of a series of lives relieved from all vulgar 
necessities, playing as they pleased with art and 
money, with water and wood. 

At the same time she was never merely dazzled; 
and never, for one moment, covetous or envious. 
He was struck with her simple dignity and inde- 
pendence; and he perfectly understood that a being 
so profoundly in love, and so overshadowed by a 
great fear, could only lend, so to speak, her outer 
mind to Carton or the persons in it. He gathered 
roses for her, and did his utmost to please her. But 
she seemed to him all the time like a little hovering 
elf smiling and gay but quite intangible. 

Dinner in the * cottage ' was short, but in Bridget's 
eyes perfect. Personally, she was not enjoying her- 



122 'MISSING' 

self very much, for she had made up her mind that 
she did not get on with military men, and that it was 
their fault, not hers; so that she sat often silent, a 
fact however unnoticed in the general clatter of the 
table. She took it quite calmly, and was more than 
compensated for the lack of conversation by the 
whole spectacle of the Farrell wealth; the flowers, 
the silver, the costly accessories of all kinds, which 
even in war-time, and in a * cottage,' seemed to be 
indispensable. It would have been more amusing, no 
doubt, if it had been the big house and not the cot- 
tage. Sometimes through the open windows and the 
trees, she caught sight of the great lighted pile a 
little way off, and found herself dreaming of what 
it would be to live there, and to command all that 
these people commanded. She saw herself sweeping 
through the magnificent rooms, giving orders, invit- 
ing guests, entertaining royalty, driving about the 
country in splendid motors. It was a waking dream, 
and though she never uttered a word, the animation 
of her thoughts infused a similar animation into her 
aspect, and made her almost unconscious of her 
neighbours. Captain Marsworth made several at- 
tempts to win her attention before she heard him. 

1 Yes.' 

She turned at last an absent glance upon him. 

* Miss Farrell talks of our all going over to the 
hospital after dinner. She and Sir William often 
spend the evening there,' said Captain Marsworth, 
quite aware from Miss Farrell's frequent glances in 



'MISSING' 123 

his direction that he was not in her opinion doing 
his duty with Miss Cookson. 

'Will it take us long?' said Bridget, the vivacity 
of her look dying out. 

* As long as you please to stay I ' laughed the 
Captain, drily. 

That passage after dinner through the convales- 
cent wards of the finely equipped hospital was to 
Nelly Sarratt an almost intolerable experience. She 
went bravely through it, leaving, wherever she 
talked to a convalescent, an impression of shy sweet- 
ness behind her, which made a good many eyes fol- 
low her as Farrell led her through the rooms. But 
she was thankful when it was over; and when, at 
last, she was alone in her room for the night, she 
flew for consolation to the drawer in which she 
had locked her writing-desk, and the letters she had 
received that morning. The post had just arrived 
as they were leaving Rydal, and she had hastily torn 
open a letter from George, and thrust the others into 
a large empty envelope. And now she discovered 
among them to her delight a second letter from 
George, unopened. What unexpected joy! 

It too was dated * Somewhere in France ' and 
had been written two days after the letter she had 
opened in the morning. 

' My darling we're having a real jolly time here 
in an old village, far behind the line, and it is said 
we shall be here for three whole weeks. Well, some 



i2 4 'MISSING' 

of us really wanted it, for the battalion has been in 
some very hot fighting lately, and has had a nasty 
bit of the line to look after for a long time with 
nothing very much to show for it. My platoon has 
lost some of its best men, and I've been pretty badly 
hit, as some of them were real chums of mine the 
bravest and dearest fellows. And I don't know 
why, but for the first time, I've been feeling rather 
jumpy and run down. So I went to a doctor, and he 
told me I'd better go off duty for a fortnight. But 
just then, luckily, the whole battalion was ordered, 
as I told you a week ago, into what's called " divi- 
sional rest," so here we are for three weeks ! Quite 
good billets an old French farm with two good 
barns and lots of straw for the men, and an actual 
bedroom for me and a real bed with sheets! 
Think of that! I am as comfortable as possible. 
Just at first I'm going to stay in bed for a couple 
of days to please the doctor but then I shall be all 
right, and shall probably take a course of gymnastics 
they're starting here odd, isn't it? like putting us 
to school again! so that I may be quite fit before 
going back to the front. 

' One might almost forget the war here, if it 
weren't for the rumble of the guns which hardly ever 
ceases. They are about thirty-five miles away. The 
whole country is quite peaceful, and the crops coming 
on splendidly. The farm produces delicious brown 
eggs and you should see and taste the omelets 
the farmer's wife makes! Coffee too first-rate! 



'MISSING' 125 

How these French women work! Our men are 
always helping them, and the children hang round 
our Tommies like flies. 

' These two days in bed are a godsend, for I can 
read all your letters through again. There they are 
spread out on my sheet! By Jove, little woman, 
you've treated me jolly well! And now I can pay 
you back a little. But perhaps you won't mind, dear- 
est, if I don't write anything very long, for I expect 
I ought to take it easy for a bit I can't think why 
I should have felt so slack. I never knew anything 
about nerves before. But the doctor has been very 
nice and understanding a real, decent fellow. He 
declares I shall be as fit as a fiddle, long before the 
three weeks are done. 

' My bedroom door is open, and some jolly yellow 
chickens are wandering in and out. And sometimes 
the farmer's youngest a nice little chap of eight 
comes to look at me. I teach him English or I try 
but when I say the English words, he just doubles 
up with laughing and runs away. Nelly, my precious 
if I shut my eyes I can fancy your little head 
there just inside the door and your eyes looking 
at me ! . . .May the Lord give us good luck and 
may we all be home by Christmas ! Mind you finish 
that sketch ! ' 

She put the letter down with a rather tremulous 
hand. It had depressed her, and made her anxious. 
She read in it that George had been through horrible 
things and had suffered. 



126 'MISSING' 

Then all that she had seen in the hospital came 
back upon her, and rising restlessly she threw herself, 
without undressing, face downwards on her bed. 
That officer, blanched to the colour of white wax, 
who had lost a leg after frightful haemorrhage ; that 
other, the merest boy, whose right eye had been 
excised she could not get them out of her mind, nor 
the stories they had told her of the actions in which 
they had been wounded. 

* George George ! ' It was a moan of misery, 
stifled in the darkness. 

Then, suddenly, she remembered she had not said 
good-night to Bridget. She had forgotten Bridget. 
She had been unkind. She got up, and sped along 
the passage to Bridget's room. 

4 Bridget ! ' She just opened the door. ' May I 
come in ? ' 

* Come in.' 

Bridget was already in bed. In her hands was a 
cup of steaming chocolate which a maid had just 
brought her, and she was lingering over it with a 
face of content. 

Nelly opened her eyes in astonishment. 

* Did you ask for it, Bridget? ' 

* I did or rather the housemaid asked what I 
would have. She said " ladies have just what 
they like in their rooms." So I asked for choco- 
late.' 

Nelly sat down on the bed. 
'Is it good?' 



i MISSING > 127 

4 Excellent,' said Bridget calmly. * Whatever did 
you expect?' 

4 We seem to have been eating ever since we 
came ! * said Nelly frowning, * and they call it 
economising! ' 

Bridget threw back her head with a quiet laugh. 

4 Didn't I tell you so ? ' 

4 1 wondered how you got on at dinner?' said 
Nelly hesitating. 4 Captain Marsworth didn't seem 
to be taking much trouble ? ' 

4 It didn't matter to me,' said Bridget. 4 That kind 
of man always behaves like that.' 

Nelly flushed. 

4 You mean soldiers behave like that? ' 

4 Well, I don't like soldiers brothers-in-law ex- 
cepted, of course.' And Bridget gave her short, 
rather harsh laugh. 

Nelly got up. 

4 Well, I shall be ready to go as early as you like 
on Monday, Bridget. It was awfully good of you to 
pack all my things so nicely 1 ' 

4 Don't I always ? ' Bridget laughed. 

4 You do you do indeed. Good-night.' 

She touched Bridget's cheek with her lips and stole 
away. 

Bridget was left to think. There was a dim light 
in the room showing the fine inlaid furniture, the 
flowery paper, the chintz-covered arm-chairs and 
sofa, and, through an open door, part of the tiled 
wall of the bathroom. 



128 'MISSING' 

Miss Cookson had never slept in such a room 
before, and every item in it pleased a starved sense 
in her. Poverty was hateful! Could one never 
escape it? 

Then she closed her eyes, and seemed to be watch- 
ing Sir William and Nelly in the gardens, his pro- 
tecting eager air her face looking up. Of course 
she might have married him with the greatest ease ! 
if only George Sarratt had not been in the way. 

But supposing 

All the talk that evening had been of a new * push ' 
a new and steady offensive, as soon as the shell 
supply was better. George would be in that * push.' 
Nobody expected it for another month. By that time 
he would be back at the front. She lay and thought, 
her eyes closed, her harsh face growing a little white 
and pinched under the electric lamp beside her. 
Potentially, her thoughts were murderous. The wish 
that George might not return formed itself clearly, 
for the first time, in her mind. Dreams followed, as 
to consequences both for Nelly and herself, suppos- 
ing he did not return. And in the midst of them she 
fell asleep. 



CHAPTER VII 

A UGUST came, the second August of the war. 
/"\ The heart of England was sad and sick, torn 
by the losses at Gallipoli, by the great disaster 
of the Russian retreat, by the shortage of munitions, 
by the endless small fighting on the British front, 
which eat away the young life of our race, week by 
week, and brought us no further. But the spirit of 
the nation was rising and its grim task was becom- 
ing nakedly visible at last. Guns men! Nothing 
else to say nothing else to do. 

George Sarratt's battalion returned to the fighting 
line somewhere about the middle of August. ' But 
we are only marking time,' he wrote to his wife. 
' Nothing doing here, though the casualties go on 
every day. However we all know in our bones there 
will be plenty to do soon. As for me I am more or 
less all right again/ 

Indeed, as September wore on, expectation quick- 
ened on both sides of the Channel. Nelly went in 
fear of she knew not what. The newspapers said 
little, but through Carton and the Farrells, she heard 
a great deal of military gossip. The shell supply was 
improving the new Ministry of Munitions begin- 
ing to tell a great blow was impending. 

Weeks of rain and storm died down into an 
129 



i 3 o 'MISSING' 

autumnal gentleness. The bracken was turning on 
the hills, the woods beginning to dress for the 
pageant of October. The sketching lessons which 
the usual August deluge had interrupted were to 
begin again, as soon as Farrell came home. He had 
been in France for a fortnight, at Etaples, and in 
Paris, studying new methods and appliances for the 
benefit of the hospital. But whether he was at home 
or no, the benefactions of Carton never ceased. 
Almost every other day a motor from the Hall drove 
up laden with fruit and flowers, with books and 
magazines. 

The fourth week of September opened. The 
rumours of coming events crept more heavily and 
insistently than ever through a sudden spell of heat 
that hung over the Lakes. Nelly Sarratt slept little, 
and wrote every day to her George, letters of which 
long sections were often destroyed when written, con- 
demned for lack of cheerfulness. 

She was much touched by Farrell's constant 
kindness, and grateful for it; especially because it 
seemed to keep Bridget in a good temper. She was 
grateful too for the visitors whom a hint from him 
would send on fine afternoons to call on the ladies 
at Rydal convalescent officers, to whom the drive 
from Carton, and tea with ' the pretty Mrs. Sarratt ' 
were an attraction, while Nelly would hang breath- 
less on their gossip of the war, until suddenly, per- 
haps, she would turn white and silent, lying back in 
her garden chair with the look which the men talking 



'MISSING' 131 

to her brave, kind-hearted fellows soon learnt to 
understand. Marsworth came occasionally, and 
Nelly grew to like him sincerely, and to be vaguely 
sorry for him, she hardly knew why. Cicely Far- 
rell apparently forgot them entirely. And in August 
and the first part of September she too, according 
to Captain Marsworth's information, had been away, 
paying visits. 

On the morning of September 26th, the Manches- 
ter papers which reached the cottage with the post 
contained columns of telegrams describing the British 
attack at Loos, and the French ' push ' in Cham- 
pagne. Among the letters was a short word from 
Sarratt, dated the 24th. * We shall probably be in 
action to-morrow, dearest. I will wire as soon as I 
can, but you must not be anxious if there is delay. As 
far as I can judge it will be a big thing. You may be 
sure I shall take all the precautions possible. God 
bless you, darling. Your letters are everything.' 

Nelly read the letter and the newspaper, her hands 
trembling as she held it. At breakfast, Bridget eyed 
her uncomfortably. 

4 He'll be all right ! ' she said with harsh decision. 
1 Don't fret.' 

The day passed, with heavy heat mists over the 
Lake, the fells and the woods blotted out. On pre- 
tence of sketching, Nelly spent the hours on the side 
of Loughrigg, trying sometimes to draw or sew, but 
for the most part, lying with shut eyes, hidden among 
the bracken. Her faculty for dreaming awake for 



132 'MISSING 5 

a kind of visualisation sharper than most people pos- 
sess had been much developed since George's 
departure. It partly tormented, partly soothed 
her. 

Night came without news. ' I can't hear till to- 
morrow night,' she thought, and lay still all night 
patient and sleepless, her little hands crossed on her 
breast. The window was wide open and she could 
see the stars peering over Loughrigg. 

Next morning, fresh columns in the newspaper. 
The action was still going on. She must wait. And 
somehow it was easier to wait this second day; she 
felt more cheerful. Was there some secret voice 
telling her that if he were dead, she would have 
heard? 

After lunch she set out to take some of the Carton 
flowers to the farmer's wife living in a fold of the 
fell, who had lost her only son in the July fighting. 
Hester Martin had guided her there one day, and 
some fellow-feeling had established itself rapidly be- 
tween Nelly, and the sad, dignified woman, whose 
duties went on as usual while all that gave them zest 
had departed. 

The distance was short, and she left exact word 
where she could be found. As she climbed the nar- 
row lane leading to the farm, she presently heard a 
motor approaching. The walls enclosing the lane 
left barely room to pass. She could only scramble 
hurriedly up a rock which had been built into the 
wall, and hold on to a young tree growing from it. 



'MISSING' 133 

The motor which was large and luxurious passed 
slowly, and in the car she saw two young men, one 
pale and sickly-looking, wrapped in a great-coat 
though the day was stuffily warm: the other, the 
driver, a tall and stalwart fellow, who threw Nelly 
a cold, unfriendly look as they went by. Who could 
they be? The road only led to the farm, and when 
Nelly had last visited Mrs. Grayson, a week before, 
she and her old husband and a granddaughter of 
fourteen had been its only inmates. 

Mrs. Grayson received her with a smile. 

* Aye, aye, Mrs. Sarratt, coom in. Yo're wel- 
come.' 

But as Nelly entered the flagged kitchen, with its 
joints of bacon and its bunches of dried herbs, hang- 
ing from the low beamed ceiling, its wide hob grate, 
its dresser, table and chairs of old Westmorland oak, 
every article in it shining with elbow-grease, she 
saw that Mrs. Grayson looked particularly tired and 
pale. 

' Yo mun ha' passed them in t' lane?' said the 
farmer's wife wearily, when the flowers had been 
admired and put in water, and Nelly had been estab- 
lished in the farmer's own chair by the fire, while his 
wife insisted on getting an early cup of tea. 

* Who were they, Mrs. Grayson? ' 

' Well, they're nobbut a queer soart, Mrs. Sar- 
ratt and I'd be glad to see t' back on 'em. They're 
" conscientious objectors " that's what they are 
an my husband coom across them in Kendal toother 



I 3 4 'MISSING 1 

day. He'd finished wi t' market, and he strolled into 
the room at the Town Hall, where the men were 
coomin' in yo know to sign on for the war. An' 
he got talkin' wi' these two lads, who were lookin' 
on as he was. And they said they was " conscientious 
objectors " and wouldn't fight not for nothing nor 
nobody. But they wouldn't mind doing their bit in 
other ways, they said. So John he upped and said 
would they coom and help him with his second crop 
o' hay you know we've lost nearly all our men, 
Mrs. Sarratt and they said they would and that 
very evening he brought 'em along. And who do 
you think they are ? ' 

Nelly could not guess; and Mrs. Grayson ex- 
plained that the two young men were the wealthy 
sons of a wealthy Liverpool tradesman and were 
starting a branch of their father's business in Kendal. 
They had each of them a motor, and apparently un- 
limited money. They had just begun to be useful in 
the hay-making * But they wouldn't touch the stock 
they wouldn't kill anything not a rat! They 
wouldn't even shoo the birds from the oats! And 
last night one of them was took ill and I must go 
and sit up with him, while his brother fetched the big 
car from Kendal to take him home. And there was 
he, groaning, nobbut a bit of colic, Mrs. Sarratt, 
that anybody might have ! and there I sat think- 
ing of our lads in the trenches thinking of my boy 
that never grumbled at anything and would ha' 
been just ashamed to make such a fuss for such a 



'MISSING 1 135 

little. And this afternoon the brother's taken him 
away to be molly-coddled at home. And, of course, 
they've left us, just when they might ha' been o' soom 
real service. There's three fields still liggin oot in t' 
wet and nobody to lend a hand wi' them. But I 
doan't want them back ! I doan't hold wi' f oak like 
that. I doan't want to see a mon like that settin' 
where my boy used to set, when he came home. It 
goes agin me. I can't soomhow put up wi' it.' 

And as she sat there opposite Nelly, her gnarled 
and work-stained hands resting on her knees, the 
tears suddenly ran over her cheeks. But she quickly 
apologised for herself. * The truth is I am run 
doon, Mrs. Sarratt. I've done nothing but cook and 
cook since these young men coom along. They 
wouldn't eat noa flesh soa I must always be cookin' 
summat vegetables or fish or sweet things. I'm 
fair tired oot ! ' 

Nelly exclaimed indignantly. 

* Was it their religion made them behave like 
that?' 

' Religion ! ' Mrs. Grayson laughed. * Well, they 
was only the yan Sunday here but they took no 
account o't, whativer. They went motorin' all day; 
an niver set foot in church or chapel. They belong 
to soom Society or other I couldna tell what. But 
we'll not talk o' them ony more, Mrs. Sarratt, if yo 
please. I'm just thankful they're gone. . ,. . An 
have ye heard this day of Mr. Sarratt?' 

The gentle ageing face bent forward tenderly. 



i 3 6 'MISSING' 

Nelly lifted her own dark-rimmed eyes to it. Her 
mouth quivered. 

1 No, not yet, Mrs. Grayson. But I shall soon. 
You'll have seen about this fighting in the news- 
papers? There's been a great battle I think he'll 
have been in it. I shall hear to-night. I shall be 
sure to hear to-night.' 

' The Lord protect him ! ' said Mrs. Grayson 
softly. They both sat silent, looking into the fire. 
Through the open door, the hens could be heard 
pecking and clucking in the yard, and the rushing of a 
beck swollen by the rain, on the fell-side. Presently 
the farmer's wife looked up 

* It's devil's work, is war ! ' she said, her eyes 
blazing. Nelly held out her hand and Mrs. Grayson 
put hers into it. The two women looked at each 
other, the one who had lost, and the other who 
feared to lose. 

* Yes, it's awful,' said Nelly, in a low voice. 
1 They want us to be brave but ' 

Mrs. Grayson shook her head again. 

* We can do it when they're settin' there afore 
us,' she said, * but not when we're by our lone.' 

Nelly nodded. 

' It's the nights that are worst ' she murmured, 
under her breath * because it's then they're fighting 
- when we're in bed sleeping.' 

* My boy was killed between one and two in the 
morning ' whispered Mrs. Grayson. * I heard 
from one of his friends this morning. He says it was 



'MISSING' 137 

a lovely night, and the daylight just comin' up. I 
think of it when I'm layin' awake and hearing the 
birds beginning.' 

There was silence again, till Mrs. Grayson said, 
suddenly, with a strange passion: 

' But I'd rather be Jim's mother, and be settin' 
here without him, than I'd be the mother o' yan of 
them young fellows as is just gone ! ' 

' Yes,' said Nelly slowly ' yes. If we think too 
much about keeping them safe just for ourselves 
they despise they would despise us. And if any- 
one hangs back, we despise them. It' a horrible 
puzzle.' 

' We can pray for them,' said Mrs. Grayson sim- 
ply. ' God can keep them safe if it's His will.' 

' Yes ' said Nelly again. But her tone was flat 
and hesitating. Her ever-present fear was very little 
comforted by prayer. But she found comfort in Mrs. 
Grayson. She liked to stay on in the old kitchen, 
watching Mrs. Grayson's household ways, making 
friends with the stolid tabby cat, or listening to 
stories of Jim as a child. Sometimes she would read 
parts of George's letters to this new friend. Bridget 
never cared to hear them; and she was more com- 
pletely at ease with the farmer's wife even than with 
Hester Martin. 

But she could not linger this afternoon. Her news 
might come any time. And Sir William had tele- 
phoned that morning to say that he and his sister 
would call on their way from Windermere, and 



138 'MISSING' 

would ask for a cup of tea. M arsworth would prob- 
ably meet them at Rydal. 

As she descended the lane, she scolded herself for 
ingratitude. She was glad the Farrells were coming, 
because they would bring newspapers, and perhaps 
information besides, of the kind that does not get 
into newspapers. But otherwise why had she so 
little pleasure now in the prospect of a visit from 
Sir William Farrell? He had never forced himself 
upon them. Neither his visits nor his lessons had 
been oppressively frequent, while the kindnesses 
which he had showered upon them, from a distance, 
had been unceasing. She could hardly have ex- 
plained her disinclination. Was it that his company 
had grown so stimulating and interesting to her, that 
it made her think too much of other things than the 
war? and so it seemed to separate her from 
George? Her own quiet occupations the needle- 
work and knitting that she did for a neighbouring 
war workroom, the gathering and drying of the 
sphagnum moss, the visiting of a few convalescent 
soldiers, a daily portion of Wordsworth, and some 
books about him these things were within her com- 
pass; George knew all about them, for she chronicled 
them in her letters day by day. She had a happy 
peaceful sense of communion with him while she was 
busy with them. But FarrelPs restless mind and 
wide culture at once tired and fascinated her. He 
would often bring a volume of Shelley, or Pater, or 
Hardy, or some quite modern poet, in his pocket, and 



'MISSING' 139 

propose to read to her and Bridget, when the sketch- 
ing was done. And as he read, he would digress into 
talk, the careless audacity of which would sometimes 
distress or repel, and sometimes absorb her; till sud- 
denly, perhaps, she realised how far she was wander- 
ing from that common ground where she and George 
had moved together, and would try and find her 
way back to it. She was always learning some new 
thing; and she hated to learn, unless George changed 
and learnt with her. 

Meanwhile Captain Marsworth was walking along 
the road from Grasmere to Rydal with a rather 
listless step. As a soldier he was by no means 
satisfied with the news of the week. We ought to 
have been in Lille and weren't. It seemed to him 
that was about what the Loos action came to; and 
his spirits were low. In addition he was in one of 
those fits of depression which attack an able man who 
has temporarily come to a stand-still in life, when his 
physical state is not buoyant enough to enable him to 
fight them off. He was beginning plainly to see that 
his own part in the war was done. His shattered 
arm, together with the neuralgic condition which had 
followed on the wound, were not going to mend suf- 
ficiently within any reasonable time to let him return 
to the fighting line, where, at the moment of his 
wound, he was doing divisional staff work, and was 
in the way of early promotion. He was a man of 
clear and vigorous mind, inclined always to take a 



140 'MISSING' 

pessimistic view of himself and his surroundings, 
and very critical also of persons in authority; a sci- 
entific soldier, besides, indulging a strong natural 
contempt for the politicians and all their crew, only 
surpassed by a similar scorn of newspapers and the 
press. He had never been popular as a subaltern, 
but since he had conquered his place among the 
' brains ' of the army, his fame had spread, and it 
was freely prophesied that his rise would be rapid. 
So that his growing conviction that his active military 
career was over had been the recent cause in him of 
much bitterness of soul. It was a bitter realisation, 
and a recent one. He had been wounded at Neuve 
Chapelle in March, and up to July he had been con- 
fident of complete and rapid recovery. 

Well, there was of course some compensation. A 
post in the War Office in the Intelligence Depart- 
ment would, he understood, be offered him; and by 
October he meant to be at work. Meanwhile an old 
school and college friendship between himself and 
* Bill Farrell/ together with the special facilities at 
Carton for the treatment of neuralgia after wounds, 
had made him an inmate for several months of the 
special wing devoted to such cases in the splendid 
hospital; though lately by way of a change of sur- 
roundings, he had been lodging with the old Rector 
of the village of Carton, whose house was kept 
and well kept by a sweet-looking and practical 
granddaughter, herself an orphan. 



'MISSING' 141 

Marsworth had connections in high quarters, and 
possessed some considerable means. He had been a 
frequenter of the Farrells since the days when the old 
aunt was still in command, and Cicely was a young 
thing going to her first dances. He and she had 
sparred and quarrelled as boy and girl. Now that, 
after a long interval, they had again been thrown 
into close contact, they sparred and quarrelled still. 
He was a man of high and rather stern ideals, which 
had perhaps been intensified made a little grimmer 
and fiercer than before by the strain of the war; 
and the selfish frivolity of certain persons and classes 
in face of the national ordeal was not the least atoned 
for in his eyes by the heroism of others. The endless 
dress advertisements in the daily papers affected him 
as they might have affected the prophet Ezekiel, had 
the daughters of Judah added the purchase of fur 
coats, priced from twenty guineas to two hundred to 
their other enormities. He had always in his mind 
the agonies of the war, the sights of the trenches, 
the holocaust of young life, the drain on the national 
resources, the burden on the national future. So 
that the Farrell motor-cars and men servants, the 
costly simplicity of the ' cottage,' Cicely's extrava- 
gance in dress, her absurd and expensive uniform, 
her make-up and her jewels, were so many daily 
provocations to a man thus sombrely possessed. 

And yet he had not been able so far to tear 
himself away from Carton! And he knew many 



142 'MISSING' 

things about Cicely Farrell that Nelly Sarratt had 
not discovered ; things that alternately softened and 
enraged him; things that kept him now, as for some 
years past, provokingly, irrationally interested in 
her. He had once proposed to her, and she had 
refused him. That was known to a good many peo- 
ple. But what their relations were now was a mys- 
tery to the friends on both sides. 

Whatever they were, however, on this September 
afternoon Marsworth was coming rapidly to the 
conclusion that he had better put an end to them. 
His latent feelings of resentment and irritation had 
been much sharpened of late by certain passages 
of arms between himself and Cicely since she 
returned from her visits with regard to that per- 
fectly gentle and inoffensive little maiden, Miss 
Daisy Stewart, the Rector's granddaughter. Miss 
Farrell had several times been unpardonably rude 
to the poor child in his presence, and, as it seemed 
to him, with the express object of showing him how 
little she cared to keep on friendly terms with 
him. 

Nevertheless he found himself puzzling over 
certain other incidents in his recent ken, of a differ- 
ent character. The hospital at Carton was mainly 
for privates, with a certain amount of accommoda- 
tion for officers. He had done his best during the 
summer to be useful to some poor fellows, especially 
of his own regiment, on the Tommies' side. And 
he had lately come across some perplexing signs of 



'MISSING' 143 

a special thoughtfulness on Miss Farrell's part for 
these particular men. He had discovered also that 
she had taken pains to keep these small kindnesses 
of hers from his knowledge. 

4 1 wasn't to tell you, sir,' said the boy who had 
lost an eye ' not whatever. But when you come 
along with them things ' a set of draughts and a 
book ' why it do seem as though I be gettin' more 
than my share ! ' 

Well, she had always been incomprehensible 
and he was weary of the attempt to read her. But 
he wanted a home he wanted to marry. He 
began to think again in leisurely 'fashion of the 
Rector's granddaughter. 

Was that Mrs. Sarratt descending the side-lane? 
The sight of her recalled his thoughts instantly to 
the war, and to a letter he had received that morn- 
ing from a brother officer just arrived in London on 
medical leave the letter of a * grouser ' if ever 
there was one. 

* They say that this week is to see another big 
push the French probably in Champagne, and we 
south of Bethune. I know nothing first-hand, but 
I do know that it can only end in a few kilometres 
of ground, huge casualties, and, as you were ! We 
are not ready we can't be ready for months. On 
the other hand we must keep moving if only to kill 
a few Germans, and keep our own people at home in 
heart. I passed some of the Lanchesters on my 
way down going up, as fresh as paint after three 



144 'MISSING' 

weeks' rest what's left of them. They're sure to 
be in it.' 

The little figure in the mauve cotton had paused 
at the entrance to the lane, perceiving him. 

What about Sarratt? Had she heard? He hur- 
ried on to meet her, and put his question. 

4 There can't be any telegram yet,' she said, her 
pale cheeks flushing. ' But it will come to-night. 
Shall we go back quickly?' 

They walked on rapidly. He soon found she did 
not want to talk of the news, and he was driven 
back on the weather. 

1 What a bless'ing to see the sun again ! this west 
country damp demoralises me.' 

'I think I like it!' 

He laughed. 

1 Do you only " say that to annoy " ? ' 

4 No, I do like it ! I like to see the rain shutting 
out everything, so that one can't make any plans 
or go anywhere.' She smiled, but he was well aware 
of the fever in her look. He had not seen it there 
since the weeks immediately following Sarratt's de- 
parture. His heart warmed to the frail creature, 
tremulous as a leaf in the wind, yet making a show 
of courage. He had often asked himself whether 
he would wish to be loved as Mrs. Sarratt evi- 
dently loved her husband; whether he could possibly 
meet such a claim upon his own sensibility. But 
to-day he thought he could meet it; to-day he 
thought it would be agreeable. 



'MISSING' 145 

Nelly had not told Marsworth however -uat one 
reason for which she liked the rain was that it had 
temporarily put an end to the sketching lessons. 
Nor could she have added that this new distaste 
in her, as compared with the happy stir of fresh 
or quickened perception, which had been the result 
of his early teaching, was connected, not only w f h 
Sir William but with Bridget her sister Bridget. 

But the truth was that something in Bridget's 
manner, very soon after the Carton visit, had begun 
to perplex and worry the younger sister. Why was 
Bridget always insisting on the lessons? always 
ready to scold Nelly if one was missed and always 
practising airs and graces with Sir William that she 
wasted on no one else ? Why was she so frequently 
away on the days when Sir William was expected? 
Nelly had only just begun to notice it, and to fall 
back instinctively on Miss Martin's company when- 
ever it could be had. She hated her own vague 
annoyance with Bridget's behaviour, just because 
she could not pour herself out to George about it. 
It was really too silly and stupid to talk about. She 
supposed she dreaded that Bridget might be go- 
ing to ask Sir William some favour; that she meant 
to make use of his kindness to her sister in order 
to work upon him. How horrible that would be ! 
how it would spoil everything! Nelly began some- 
times to dream of moving, of going to Borrowdale, 
or to the coast at Scascale. And then, partly her 
natural indolence, and partly her clinging to every 



i 4 6 'MISSING' 

rock and field in this beautiful place where she had 
been so happy, intervened; and she let things slide. 

Yet when Sir William and Cicely arrived, to find 
Bridget making tea, and Nelly listening with a little 
frown of effort, while Marsworth, pencil in hand, 
was drawing diagrams a la Belloc, to explain to her 
the Russian retreat from Galicia, how impossible 
not to feel cheered by Farrell's talk and company! 
The great bon enfant, towering in the little room, 
and positively lighting it up by the red-gold of his- 
hair and beard, so easily entertained, so overflow- 
ing with kind intentions, so fastidious intellectually, 
and so indulgent morally: as soon as he appeared 
he filled the scene. 

' No fresh news, dear Mrs. Sarratt, nothing 
whatever,' he said at once, meeting her hungry 
eyes. * And you ? ' 

She shook her head. 

' Don't worry. You'll get it soon. I've sent the 
motor back to Windermere for the evening papers/ 

Meanwhile Marsworth found himself reduced to 
watching Cicely, and presently he found himself 
more angry and disgusted than he had ever yet been. 
How could she? How dared she? On this day 
of all days, to be snobbishly playing the great lady 
in Mrs. Sarratt's small sitting-room! Whenever 
that was Cicely's mood she lisped; and as often as 
Marsworth, who was sitting far away from her, 
talking to Bridget Cookson, caught her voice, it 
seemed to him that she was lisping affectedly 



'MISSING' 147 

monstrously. She was describing for instance a cer- 
tain ducal household in which she had just been 
spending the week-end, and Marsworth heard her 
say 

'Well at last, poor Evelyn' ('poor Evelyn' 
seemed to be a youthful Duchess, conducting a war 
economy campaign through the villages of her hus- 
band's estate), 'began to get threatening letters. 
She found out afterwards they came from a nurse- 
maid she had sent away. " Madam, don't you talk 
to us, but look at 'ome ! examine your own nursewy, 
Madam, and hold your tongue ! " She did examine, 
and I found her cwying. " Oh, Cicely, isn't it 
awful, I've just discovered that Nurse has been 
spending seven pounds a week on Baby's wibbons ! " 
So she's given up war economy ! ' 

'Why not the "wibbons?"' said Hester Mar- 
tin, who had just come in and heard the tale. 

' Because nobody gives up what they weally want 
to have,' said Cicely promptly, with a more affected 
voice and accent than before. 

Bridget pricked up her ears and nodded trium- 
phantly towards Nelly. 

' Don't talk nonsense, Cicely,' said Farrell. 
'Why, the Duchess has planted the whole rose- 
garden with potatoes, and sold all her Pekinese.' 

' Only because she was tired of the Pekinese, and 
has so many flowers she doesn't know what to do 
with them! On the other hand the Duke wants 
parlour-maids; and whenever he says so, Evelyn 



148 'MISSING 1 

draws all the blinds down and goes to bed. And 
that annoys him so much that he gives in ! Don't you 
talk, Willy. The Duchess always gets wound you ! ' 

' I don't care twopence about her,' said Farrell, 
rather savagely. ' What does she matter? ' Then 
he moved towards Nelly, whose absent look and 
drooping attitude he had been observing for some 
minutes. 

'Shan't we go down to the Lake, Mrs. Sarratt? 
It seems really a fine evening at last, and there won't 
be so many more. Let me carry some shawls. 
Marsworth, lend a hand.' 

Soon they were all scattered along the edge of 
the Lake. Hester Martin had relieved Marsworth 
of Bridget; Farrell had found a dry rock, and 
spread a shawl upon It for Nelly's benefit. Mars- 
worth and Cicely had no choice but to pair; and she, 
with a grey hat and plume half a yard high, pre- 
posterously short skirts, and high-heeled boots but- 
toned to the knee, condescended to stroll beside him, 
watching his grave embarrassed look with an air of 
detachment as dramatically complete as she could 
make it. 

' You look awfully tired ! ' said Farrell to his 
companion, eyeing her with most sincere concern. 
* I wonder what you've been doing to yourself.' 

1 I'm all right,' she said with emphasis. ' Indeed 
I'm all right. You said you'd sent for the papers? ' 

* The motor will wait for them at Windermere. 



'MISSING' 149 

But I don't think there'll be much more to hear. 
I'm afraid weVe shot our bolt.' 

She clasped her hands listlessly on her knee, and 
said nothing. 

'Are you quite sure Sarratt has been in it?' he 
asked her. 

' Oh, yes, I'm sure.' 

There was a dull conviction in her voice. She 
began to pluck at the grass beside her, while her 
dark contracted eyes swept the Lake in front of her 
seeing nothing. 

' Good God ! ' thought Farrell ( Are they all 
all the women suffering like this ? ' 

1 You'll get a telegram from him to-morrow, I'm 
certain you will ! ' he said, with eager kindness. 
' Try and look forward to it. You know the good 
chances are five to one.' 

* Not for a lieutenant,' she said, under her breath. 
' They have to lead their men. They can't think of 
their own lives.' 

There was silence a little. Then Farrell said 
floundering, ' He'd want you to bear up ! ' 

' 1 am bearing up ! ' she said quickly, a little 
resentfully. 

* Yes, indeed you are ! ' He touched her arm a 
moment caressingly, as though in apology. It was 
natural to his emotional temperament to express 
itself so through physical gesture. But Nelly dis- 
liked the touch. 

* I only meant ' Farrell continued, anxiously 



150 'MISSING' 

1 that he would beg you not to anticipate trouble 
not to go to meet it.' 

She summoned smiles, altering her position a lit- 
tle, and drawing a wrap round her. The delicate 
arm was no longer within his reach. 

And restlessly she began to talk of other things 
the conscientious objectors of the morning Zep- 
pelins a recruiting meeting at Ambleside. Farrell 
had the impression of a wounded creature that 
could not bear to be touched; and it was something 
new to his prevailing sense of power in life, to be 
made to realise that he could do nothing. His 
sympathy seemed to alienate her; and he felt much 
distressed and rebuffed. 

Meanwhile as the clouds cleared away from 
the September afternoon, Marsworth and Cicely 
were strolling along the Lake, and sparmng as 
usual. 

He had communicated to her his intention of 
leaving Carton within a week or so, and trying 
some fresh treatment in London. 

'You're tired of us?' she enquired, her head 
very much in air. 

'Not at all. But I think I might do a bit of 
work.' 

' The doctors don't think so.' 

' Ah, well when a man's got to my stage, he 
must make experiments on his own. It won't be 
France I know that. But there's lots else.' 



'MISSING' 151 

I You'll break down in a week ! ' she said with 
energy. *'I had a talk about you with Seaton yes- 
terday.' 

He looked at her with amusement. For the 
moment, she was no longer Cicely Farrell, extrava- 
gantly dressed, but the shrewd hospital worker, 
who although she would accept no responsibility 
that fettered her goings and comings beyond a cer- 
tain point, was yet, as he well knew, invaluable, as 
a force in the background, to both the nursing and 
medical staff of Carton. 

'Well, what did Seaton say?' 

* That you would have another bad relapse, if 
you attempted yet to go to work.' 

I 1 shall risk it.' 

' That's so like you. You never take anyone's 
advice.' 

* On the contrary, I am the meekest and most 
docile of men.' She shrugged her shoulders. 

' You were docile, I suppose, when Seaton begged 
you not to go off to the Rectory, and give yourself 
all that extra walking backwards and forwards to 
the hospital every day?' 

* I wanted a change of scene. I like the old 
Rector I even like family prayers.' 

4 1 am sure everything and everybody is per- 
fect at the Rectory ! ' 

' No not perfect but peaceable.' 

He looked at her smiling. His grey eyes, under 
their strong black brows, challenged her. She per- 



152 'MISSING' 

ceived in them a whole swarm of unspoken charges. 
Her own colour rose. 

' So peace is what you want? ' 

4 Peace and a little sympathy.' 

' And we give you neither ? ' 

He hesitated. 

* Willy never fails one.' 

4 So it's my crimes that are driving you away? 
It's all to be laid on my shoulders? ' 

He laughed uncertainly. 

' Don't you believe me when I say I want to do 
some work ? ' 

'Not much. So I have offended you?' 

His look changed, became grave touched with 
compunction. 

' Miss Farrell, I oughtn't to have been talking 
like this. You and Willy have been awfully good 
to me.' 

* And then you call me " Miss Farrell " ! ' she 
cried, passionately ' when you know very well that 
you've called me Cicely for years.' 

4 Hush ! ' said Marsworth suddenly, ' what was 
that?' 

He turned back towards Rydal. On the shore 
path, midway between them and the little bay at 
the eastern end of the lake, where Farrell and Nelly 
Sarratt had been sitting, were Hester Martin and 
Bridget. They too had turned round, arrested in 
their walk. Beyond them, at the edge of the water, 
Farrell could be seen beckoning. And a little way 



'MISSING' 153 

behind him on the slope stood a boy with a bicycle. 

4 He is calling us,' said Marsworth, and began to 
run. 

Hester Martin was already running Bridget 
too. 

But Hester and Marsworth outstripped the rest. 
Farrell came to meet them. 

* Hester, for God's sake, get her sister ! ' 

4 What is it? ' gasped Hester. ' Is he killed? ' 

'No " Wounded and missing!" Poor, poor 
child!' 

4 Where is she?' 

4 She's sitting there dazed with the telegram. 
She's hardly said anything since it came.' 

Hester ran on. There on a green edge of the 
bank sat Nelly staring at a fluttering piece of paper. 

Hester sank beside her, and put her arms round 
her. 

4 Dear Mrs. Sarratt!' 

4 What does it mean?' said Nelly turning her 
white face. * Read it.' 

4 44 Deeply_regret to inform you your husband 

jind missing! " 

That mnm. n prinnner Geotge is 
a prisoner and wounded! Can't ^ g-o to him? ' 

She looked piteously at Hester. Bridget had 
come up and was standing near. 

4 If he's a prisoner, he's in a German hospital. 
Dear Mrs. Sarratt, you'll soon hear of him ! ' 

Nelly stood up. Her young beauty of an hour 



154 'MISSING' 

before seemed to have dropped from her like the 
petals of a rose. She put her hand to her forehead. 

I But I shan't see him again ' she said slowly 
' till the end of the war the end of the war ' 
she repeated, pressing her hands on her eyes. The 
note of utter desolation brought the tears to Hes- 
ter's cheeks. But before she could say anything, 
Nelly had turned sharply to her sister. 

* Bridget, I must go up to-night ! ' 

' Must you ? ' said Bridget reluctantly. * I don't 
see what you can do.' 

* I can go to the War Office and to thatjglace 
where they make enquiries for you. Of course^ I 
mast go to London 1 and 1 must stay there. There 
might be news of him any time.' 

Bridget and "Hester looked at each other. The 
same thought was in their minds. But Nelly, re- 
stored to momentary calmness by her own sugges- 
tion, went quickly to Farrell, who with his sister and 
Marsworth was standing a little way off. 

I 1 must go to London to-night, Sir William. 
Could you order something for me?' 

' I'll take you to Windermere, Mrs. Sarratt,' said 
Cicely before her brother could reply. * The 
motor's there now.' 

' No, no, Cicely, I'll take Mrs. Sarratt,' said Far- 
rell impatiently. ' I'll send back a car from Amble- 
side, for you and Marsworth.' 

1 You forget Sir George Whitehead,' said Cicely 
quietly. * I'll do everything.' 



'MISSING' 155 

Sir George Whitehead of the A.M.S.C. was ex- 
pected at Carton that evening on a visit of inspec- 
tion to the hospital. Farrell, as Commandant, 
could not possibly be absent. He acknowledged the 
fact by a gesture of annoyance. Cicely immediately 
took things in charge. 

A whirl of packing and departure followed. By 
the time she and her charges left for Windermere, 
Cicely's hat and high heels had been entirely blotted 
out by a quite extraordinary display on her part of 
both thoughtfulness and efficiency. Marsworth had 
seen the same transformation before, but never so 
markedly. He tried several times to make his peace 
with her; but she held aloof, giving him once or 
twice an odd look out of her long almond-shaped 
eyes. 

4 Good-bye, and good luck ! ' said Farrell to 
Nelly, through the car window; and as she held out 
her hand, he stooped and kissed it with a gulp in his 
throat. Her deathly pallor and a grey veil thrown 
back and tied under her small chin gave her a 
ghostly loveliness which stamped itself on his recol- 
lection. 

' I am going up to town myself to-morrow. I 
shall come and see if I can do anything for you.' 

1 Thank you,' said Nelly mechanically. * Oh yes, 
I shall have thought of many things by then. Good- 
bye.' 

Marsworth and Farrell were left to watch the 
disappearance of the car along the moonlit road. 



i 5 6 'MISSING' 

4 Poor little soul ! ' said Farrell ' poor little 
soul ! ' He walked on along the road, his eyes on 
the ground. Marsworth offered him a cigar, and 
they smoked in silence. 

' What'll the next message be?' said Farrell, 
after a little while. ' " Reported wounded and miss- 
ing now reported killed " ? Most probable 1 ' 

Marsworth assented sadly. 



CHAPTER VIII 

IT was a pale September day. In the country, 
among English woods and heaths the sun was 
still strong, and trees and bracken, withered 
heath, and reddening berries, burned and sparkled 
beneath it. But in the dingy bedroom of a dingy 
Bloomsbury hotel, with a film of fog over every- 
thing outside, there was no sun to be seen; the plane 
trees beyond the windows were nearly leafless; and 
the dead leaves scudding and whirling along the 
dusty, airless streets, under a light wind, gave the 
last dreary touch to the scene that Nelly Sarratt was 
looking at. She was standing at a window, listlessly 
staring at some houses opposite, and the unlovely 
strip of garden which lay between her and the 
houses. Bridget Cookson was sitting at a table a 
little way behind her, mending some gloves. 

The sisters had been four days in London. For 
Nelly, life was just bearable up to five or six o'clock 
in the evening because of her morning and after- 
noon visits to the Enquiry Office in D Street, 

where everything that brains and pity could suggest 
was being done to trace the * missing'; where sat 
also that kind, tired woman, at the table which 
Nelly by now knew so well, with her pitying eyes, 
and her soft voice, which never grew perfunctory 
157 



i 5 8 'MISSING' 

or careless. * I'm so sorry ! but there's no fresh 
news/ That had been the evening message; and 
now the day's hope was over, and the long night 
had to be got through. 

That morning, however, there had been news a 
letter from Sarratt's Colonel, enclosing letters from 
two privates, who had seen Sarratt go over the 
parapet in the great rush, and one of whom had 
passed him wounded on the ground and tried to 
stay by him. But * Lieutenant Sarratt wouldn't 
allow it.' * Never mind me, old chap ' one witness 
reported him as saying. 4 Get on. They'll pick me 
up presently.' And there they had left him, and 
knew no more. 

Several other men were named, who had also 
seen him fall, but they had not yet been traced. 
They might be in hospital badly wounded, or if 
Sarratt had been made prisoner, they had probably 
shared his fate. * And if your husband has been 
taken prisoner, as we all hope,' said the gentle 
woman at the office * it will be at least a fortnight 
before we can trace him. Meanwhile we are going 
on with all other possible enquiries.' 

Nelly had those phrases by heart. The phrases 
too of that short letter those few lines the last 
she had ever received from George, written two 
days before the battle, which had reached her in 
Westmorland before her departure. 

That letter lay now on her bosom, just inside 
the folds of her blouse, where her hand could rest 



'MISSING' 159 

upon it at any moment. How passionately she had 
hoped for another, a fragment perhaps torn from 
his notebook in the trenches, and sent back by some 
messenger at the last moment! She had heard of 
that happening to so many others. Why not to her ! 
oh, why not to her? 

Her heart was dry with longing and grief; her 
eyes were red for want of sleep. There were strange 
numb moments when she felt nothing, and could 
hardly remember why she was in London. And then 
would come the sudden smart of reviving conscious- 
ness the terrible returns of an anguish, under which 
her whole being trembled. And always, at the back 
of everything, the dull thought * I always knew it 
I knew he would die! ' recurring again and again; 
only to be dashed away by a protest no less persistent 
' No, no ! He is not dead! not dead! In a fort- 
night she said so there'll be news they'll have 
found him. Then he'll be recovering and prison- 
ers are allowed to write. Oh, my George! my 
George ! ' 

It was with a leap of ecstasy that yet was pain, 
that she imagined to herself the coming of the first 
word from him. Prisoners' letters came regularly 
no doubt of that. Why, the landlady at the hotel 
had a son who was at Ruhleben, and she heard once 
a month. Nelly pictured the moment when the let- 
ter would be in her hand, and she would be looking 
at it. Oh, no doubt it wouldn't be addressed by 
him! By the nurse perhaps a German nurse or 



160 'MISSING' 

another patient. He mightn't be well enough. All 
the same, the dream filled her eyes with tears, that 
for a moment eased the burning within. 

Her life was now made up of such moments and 
dreams. On the whole, what held her most was the 
fierce refusal to think of him as dead. That morn- 
ing, in dressing, among the clothes they had hurriedly 
brought with them from Westmorland, she saw a 
thin black dress a useful stand-by in the grime of 
London and lifted her hands to take it from the 
peg on which it hung. Only to recoil from it with 
horror. That never ! And she had dressed herself 
with care in a coat and skirt of rough blue tweed 
that George had always liked; scrupulously putting 
on her little ornaments, and taking pains with her 
hair. And at every step of the process, she seemed 
to be repelling some attacking force ; holding a door 
with all her feeble strength against some horror that 
threatened to come in. 

The room in which she stood was small and cheer- 
less ; but it was all they could afford. Bridget frankly 
hated the ugliness and bareness of it; hated the dingy 
hotel, and the slatternly servants, hated the boredom 
of the long waiting for news to which apparently 
she was to be committed, if she stayed on with 
Nelly. She clearly saw that public opinion would 
expect her to stay on. And indeed she was not with- 
out some natural pity for her younger sister. There 
were moments when Nelly's state caused her extreme 
discomfort even something more. But when they 



'MISSING' 161 

occurred, she banished them as soon as possible, and 
with a firm will, which grew the firmer with exercise. 
It was everybody's duty to keep up their spirits and 
not to be beaten down by this abominable war. And 
it was a special duty for those who hated the war, 
and would stop it at once if they could. Yet Bridget 
had entirely declined to join any * Stop the War,' or 
pacifist societies. She had no sympathy with * that 
sort of people.' Her real opinion about the war was 
that no cause could be worth such wretched incon- 
venience as the war caused to everyone. She hated 
to feel and know that probably the majority of decent 
people would say, if asked, as Captain Marsworth 
had practically said that she, Bridget Cookson, 
ought to be doing V.A.D. work, or relieving munition- 
workers at week-ends, instead of fiddling with an 
index to a text-book on * The New Psychology.' The 
mere consciousness of that was already an attack on 
her personal freedom to do what she liked, which she- 
hotly resented. And as to that conscription of women 
for war-work which was vaguely talked of, Bridget 
passionately felt that she would go to prison rather 
than submit to such a thing. For the war said noth- 
ing whatever to her heart or conscience. All the 
great tragic side of it the side of death and wounds 
and tears of high justice and ideal aims she put 
away from her, as she always had put away such 
things, in peace. They did not concern her per- 
sonally. Why make trouble for oneself? 

And yet here was a sister whose husband was 



162 'MISSING' 

1 wounded and missing ' probably, as Bridget firmly 
believed, already dead. And the meaning of that 
fact that possibility was writ so large on Nelly's 
physical aspect, on Nelly's ways and plans, that there 
was really no getting away from it. Also there 
were other people to be considered. Bridget did not 
at all want to offend or alienate Sir William Farrell 
now less than ever. And she was quite aware that 
he would think badly of her, if he suspected she was 
not doing her best for Nelly. 

The September light waned. The room grew so 
dark that Bridget turned on an electric light beside 
her, and by the help of it stole a long look at Nelly, 
who was still standing by the window. Would gricv- 
ing would the loss of George take Nelly's p.reiti- 
ness away? She had certainly lost flesh during the 
preceding weeks and days. Her little chin -was very 
sharp, as Bridget saw it against the window, and her 
hair seemed to have.paxted with its waves and curls, 
and to be hanging limp about her ears. Bridget 
felt a pang of annoyance that anything should spoil 
Nelly's good looks. It was altogether unnecessary 
and absurd. 

Presently Nelly moved back towards her sister. 

1 1 don't know how I shall get through the next 
fortnight,' she said in a low voice. ' I wonder what 
we had better do?' 

1 Well, we can't stay here,' said Bridget sharply. 
* It's too expensive, though it is such a poky hole. 
We can find a lodging, I suppose, and feed ourselves. 



'MISSING' 163 

Unless of course we went back to Westmorland. 
Why can't you ? They can always telegraph.' 

Nelly flushed. Her hand lying on the back of 
Bridget's chair shook. 

* And if George sent for me,' she said, in the 
same low, strained voice, ' it would take eight hours 
longer to get to him than it would from here.' 

Bridget said nothing. In her heart of hearts she 
felt perfectly certain that George never would send. 
She rose and put down her needlework. 

* I must go and post a letter downstairs. I'll 
ask the woman in the office if she knows anything 
about lodgings.' 

Nelly went back to her post by the window. Her 
mind was bruised between two conflicting feelings 
a dumb longing for someone to caress and com- 
fort her, someone who would meet her pain with 
a bearing less hard and wooden than Bridget's 
and at the same time, a passionate shrinking from 
the bare idea of comfort and sympathy, as something 
not to be endured. She had had a kind letter from 
Sir William Farrell that morning. He had spoken 
of being soon in London. But she did not know that 
she could bear to see him unless he could help get 
something done! 

Bridget descended to the ground floor, and had 
a conversation with the young lady in the office, 
which threw no light at all on the question of lodg- 
ings. The young lady in question seemed to be pat- 
ting and pinning up her back hair all the time, 



1 64 'MISSING' 

besides carrying on another conversation with a sec- 
ond young lady in the background. Bridget was 
disgusted with her and was just going upstairs again, 
when the very shabby and partly deformed hall 
porter informed her that someone a gentleman 
was waiting to see her in the drawing-room. 

A gentleman? Bridget hastened to the small and 
stuffy drawing-room, where the hall porter had just 
turned on the light, and there beheld a tall bearded 
man pacing up and down, who turned abruptly as 
she entered. 

1 How is she ? Is there any news ? ' 

Sir William Farrell hurriedly shook her offered 
hand, frowning a little at the sister who always 
seemed to him inadequate and ill-mannered. 

* Thank you, Sir William ; she is quite well. There 
is a little news but nothing of any consequence.' 

She repeated the contents of the hospital letter, 
with the comments on it of the lady they had seen 
at the office. 

' We shan't hear anything more for a fortnight. 
They have written to Geneva.' 

4 Then they think he's a prisoner?' 

Bridget supposed so. 

* At any rate they hope he is. Well, I'm thank- 
ful there's no worse news. Poor thing poor little 
thing! Is she bearing up eating? sleeping?' 

He asked the questions peremptorily, yet with a 
real anxiety. Bridget vaguely resented the peremp- 
toriness, but she answered the questions.' It was 



'MISSING' 165 

very difficult to get Nelly to eat anything, and Bridget 
did not believe she slept much. 

Farrell shook his head impatiently, with various 
protesting noises, while she spoke. Then drawing up 
suddenly, with his hands in his pockets, he looked 
round the room in which they stood. 

* But why are you staying here ? It's a dread- 
ful hole! That porter gave me the creeps. And 
it's so far from everywhere.' 

'There is a tube station close by. We stay here 
because it's cheap,' said Bridget, grimly. 

Sir William walked up the room again, poking his 
nose into the moribund geranium that stood, flanked 
by some old railway guides, on the middle table, 
surveyed the dirty and ill-kept writing-table, the un- 
comfortable chairs, and finally went to look out of 
the window; after which he suddenly and unaccount- 
ably brightened up and turned with a smile to 
Bridget 

4 Do you think you could persuade your sister 
to do something that would please me very 
much ? ' 

' I'm sure I don't know, Sir William.' 

* Well, it's this. Cicely and I have a flat in St. 
James' Square. I'm there very little just now, and 
she less. You know we're both awfully busy at Car- 
ton. We've had a rush of wounded the last few 
weeks. I must be up sometimes on business for the 
hospital, but I can always sleep at my club. So what 
I want to persuade you to do, Miss Cookson, is to 



166 'MISSING' 

get Mrs. Sarratt to accept the loan of our flat, for 
a few weeks while she's kept in town. It would be 
a real pleasure to us. We're awfully sorry for her! ' 

He beamed upon her, all his handsome face suf- 
fused with kindness and concern. 

Bridget was amazed, but cautious. 

* It's awfully good of you but shouldn't we 
have to get a servant? I couldn't do everything.' 

Sir William laughed. 

* Gracious I should think not ! There are always 
servants there it's kept ready for us. I put in a 
discharged soldier an army cook and his wife a 
few months ago. They're capital people. I'm sure 
they'd look after you. Well now, will you suggest 
that to Mrs. Sarratt? Could I see her? ' 

Bridget hesitated. Some instinct told her that 
Nelly would not wish to accept this proposal. She 
said slowly 

' I'm afraid she's very tired to-night.' 

'Oh, don't bother her then! But just try and 
persuade her won't you quietly ? And send me a 
word to-night.' 

He gave the address. 

' If I hear that you'll come, I'll make all the 
arrangements to-morrow morning before I leave for 
Westmorland. You can just take her round in a 
taxi any time you like, and the servants will be 

quite ready for you. You'll be close to D Street 

close to everything. Now do I ' 

He stood with his hands on his side looking down 



'MISSING' 167 

eagerly and a little sharply on the hard-featured 
woman before him. 

1 It's awfully good of you,' said Bridget again 
4 most awfully good. Of course I'll tell Nelly what 
you say.' 

* And drop me a line to-night? ' 
1 Yes, I'll write.' 

Sir William took up his stick. 

* Well, I shall put everything in train. Tell her, 
please, what a pleasure she'd give us. And she won't 
keep Cicely away. Cicely will be up next week. But 
there's plenty of room. She and her maid wouldn't 
make any difference to you. And please tell Mrs. 
Sarratt too, that if there's anything I can do 
anything she has only to let me know.' 

Bridget went back to the room upstairs. As she 
opened the door she saw Nelly standing under the 
electric light motionless. Something in her atti- 
tude startled Bridget. 

She called 

'Nelly!' 

Nelly turned slowly, and Bridget saw that she had 
a letter in her hand. Bridget ran up to her. 

1 Have you heard anything? ' 

* He did write to me ! he did ! just the last 
minute in the trench. I knew he must. He gave 
it to an engineer officer who was going back to Head- 
quarters, to post. The officer was badly wounded 
as he went back. They've sent it me from France. 



i68 'MISSING' 

The waiter brought me the letter just after you'd 
gone down.' 

The words came in little panting gasps. 

Then, suddenly, she slipped down beside the table 
at which Bridget had been working, and hid her face. 
She was crying. But it was very difficult weeping 
with few tears. The slight frame shook from top 
to toe. 

Bridget stood by her, not knowing what to do. 
But she was conscious of a certain annoyance that 
she couldn't begin at once on the subject of the flat. 
She put her hand awkwardly on her sister's shoulder. 

* Don't cry so. What does he say? ' 

Nelly did not answer for a little. At last she said, 
her face still buried 

* It was only to tell me that he loved me ' 

There was silence again. Then Nelly rose to her 

feet. She pressed her hair back from her white face. 

' 1 don't want any supper, Bridget. I think I 
should like to go to bed.' 

Bridget helped her to undress. It was now nearly 
dark and she drew down the blinds. When she 
looked again at Nelly, she saw her lying white and 
still, her wide eyes fixed on vacancy. 

' I found a visitor downstairs,' she said, abruptly. 
' It was Sir William Farrell.' 

Nelly shewed no surprise, or interest. But she 
seemed to find some words mechanically. 

'Why did he come?' 

Bridget came to the bedside. 



'MISSING' 169 

' He wants us to go and stay at his flat their flat. 
He and his sister have it together in St. James' 
Square. He wants us to go to-morrow. He's going 
back to Carton. There are two servants there. We 
shouldn't have any trouble. And you'd be close to 

D Street. Any news they got they could send 

round directly.' 

Nelly closed her eyes. 

' I don't care where we go,' she said, under her 
breath. 

' He wanted a line to-night,' said Bridget * I can't 
hear of any lodgings. And the boarding-houses are 
all getting frightfully expensive because food's go- 
ing up so.' 

' Not a boarding-house ! ' murmured Nelly. A 
shiver of repulsion ran through her. She was think- 
ing of a boarding-house in one of the Bloomsbury 
streets where she and Bridget had once stayed before 
her marriage the long tables full of strange faces 
the drawing-room crowded with middle-aged women, 
who stared so. 

' Well, I can write to him to-night then, and say 
we'll go to-morrow? We certainly can't stay here. 
The charges are abominable. If we go to their flat, 
for a few days, we can look round us and find some- 
thing cheap.' 

1 Where is it? ' said Nelly faintly. 

' In St. James' Square.' 

The address conveyed very little to Nelly. She 
knew hardly anything of London. Two visits one 



i 7 o 'MISSING' 

to some cousins in West Kensington, another to a 
friend at Hampstead together with the fortnight 
three years ago in the Bloomsbury boarding-house, 
when Bridget had had some grand scheme with a 
publisher which never came off, and Nelly had mostly 
stayed indoors with bad toothache: her acquaint- 
ance with the great city had gone no further. Of 
its fashionable quarters both she and Bridget were 
entirely ignorant, though Bridget would not have 
admitted it. 

Bridget got her writing-case out of her trunk and 
began to write to Sir William. Nelly watched her. 
At last she said slowly, as though she were becom- 
ing a little more conscious of the world around 
her: 

1 It's awfully kind of them. But we needn't stay 
long.' 

* Oh no, we needn't stay long.' 

Bridget wrote the letter, and disappeared to post 
it. Nelly was left alone in darkness. The air about 
her seemed to be ringing with the words of her letter. 

* MY OWN DARLING, We are just going over. I 
have found a man going back to D.H.Q. who will 
post this and I just want you to know that, what- 
ever happens, you are my beloved, and our love 
can't die. God bless you, my dear, dear wife. ... 
We are all in good spirits everything ought to go 
well and I will write the first moment possible. 

' GEORGE.' 



'MISSING' 171 

She seemed to see him, tearing the leaf from the 
little block she had given him, and standing in the 
trench, so slim and straight in his khaki. And then, 
what happened after ? when the rush came ? Would 
she never know? If he never came back to her, 
what was she going to do with her life? Waves of 
lonely terror went through her terror of the long 
sorrow before her terror of her own weakness. 

And then again reaction. She sat up in bed, 
angrily wrestling with her own lapse from hope. Of 
course it was all coming right! She turned on the 
light, with a small trembling hand, and tried to read 
a newspaper Bridget had brought in. But the words 
swam before her; the paper dropped from her grasp; 
and when Bridget came back, her face was hidden, 
she seemed to be asleep. 

'Is this it?' said Nelly, looking in alarm at the 
new and splendid house before which the taxi had 
drawn up. 

* Well, it's the right number ! ' And Bridget, 
rather flurried, looked at the piece of paper on which 
Farrell had written the address for her, the night 
before. 

She jumped out of the taxi and ran up some marble 
steps towards a glass door covered with a lattice 
metal-work, beyond which a hall, a marble staircase 
and a lift shewed dimly. Inside, a porter in livery, 
at the first sight of the taxi, put down the newspaper 
he was reading, and hurried to the door. 



i 7 2 'MISSING' 

' Is this Sir William Farrell's flat? ' asked Bridget. 

' It's all right, Miss. They're expecting you. Sir 
William went off this morning. I was to tell you he 
had to go down to Aldershot to-day on business, but 
he hoped to look in this evening, on his way to Eus- 
ton, to see that you had everything comfortable.' 

Reluctantly, and with a feeble step, Nelly 
descended, helped by the porter. 

4 Oh, Bridget, I wish we hadn't come ! ' She 
breathed it into her sister's ear, as they stood to- 
gether in the hall, waiting for the lift which had 
been called. Bridget shut her lips tightly, and said 
nothing. 

The lift carried them up to the third floor, and 
there at the top the ex-army cook and his wife were 
waiting, a pair of stout and comfortable people, all 
smiles and complaisance. The two small trunks were 
shouldered by the man, and the woman led the way. 

* Lunch will be ready directly, Ma'am/ she said 
to Nelly, who followed her in bewilderment across 
a hall panelled in marble and carpeted with some- 
thing red and soft. 

* Sir William thought you would like it about 
one o'clock. And this is your room, please, Ma'am 
unless you would like anything different. It's Miss 
Farrell's room. She always likes the quiet side. 
And I've put Miss Cookson next door. I thought 
you'd wish to be together? ' 

Nelly entered a room furnished in white and pale 
green, luxurious in every detail, and hung with 



'MISSING' 173 

engravings after Watteau framed in white wood. 
Through an open door shewed another room a little 
smaller, but equally dainty and fresh in all its ap- 
pointments. Bridget tripped briskly through the 
open door, looked around her and deposited her bag 
upon the bed. Nelly meanwhile was being shewn 
the green-tiled and marble-floored bathroom attached 
to her room, Mrs. Simpson chattering on the various 
improvements and subtleties, which * Miss Cicely ' 
had lately commanded there. 

4 But I'm sure you'll be wanting your lunch, 
Ma'am/ said the woman at last, venturing a com- 
passionate glance at the pale young creature beside 
her. ' It'll be ready in five minutes. I'll tell Simp- 
son he can serve it.' 

She disappeared, and Nelly sank into a chair. 
Why had they come to this place ? Her whole nature 
was in revolt. The gaiety and luxury of the flat 
seemed to rise up and reproach her. What was she 
doing in such surroundings ? when George Oh, it 
was hateful hateful ! She thought with longing of 
the little bare room in the Rydal lodgings, where they 
had been happy together. 

* Well, are you ready? ' said Bridget, bustling in. 
* Do take off your things. You look absolutely 
done up ! ' 

Nelly rose slowly, but her face had flushed. 

* I can't stay here, Bridget ! ' she said with energy 
' I can't ! I don't know why we came.' 

* Because we were asked,' said Bridget calmly. 



i 7 4 'MISSING' 

* We can stay, I think, for a couple of days, can't 
we, till we find something else? Where are your 
brushes ? ' 

r~ And she began vigorously unpacking for her sis- 
ter, helplessly watched by Nelly. They had just 

come from D Street, where Nelly had been 

shewn various letters and telegrams; but nothing 
which promised any real further clue to George Sar- 
ratt's fate. He had been seen advancing seen 
wounded by at least a dozen men of the regiment, 
and a couple of officers, all of whom had now been 
communicated with. But the wave of the counter- 
attack temporarily successful had rushed over the 
same ground before the British gains had been finally 

\ consolidated, and from that fierce and confused fight- 
ing there came no further word of George Sarratt. 
It was supposed that in the final German retreat he 
had been swept up as a German prisoner. He was 
not among the dead found and buried by an English 
search party on the following day so much had 
been definitely ascertained. 

The friendly volunteer in D Street whose 

name appeared to be Miss Eustace had tried to in- 
sist with Nelly that on the whole, and so far, the news 
collected was not discouraging. At least there was no 
verification of death. And for the rest, there were 
always the letters from Geneva to wait for. ' One 
must be patient,' Miss Eustace had said finally. 
1 These things take so long ! But everybody's doing 
their best.' And she had grasped Nelly's cold hands 



'MISSING' 175 

in hers, long and pityingly. Her own fine aquiline 
face seemed to have grown thinner and more strained 
even since Nelly had known it. She often worked in 
the office, she said, up to midnight. 

All these recollections and passing visualisations 
of words and faces, drawn from those busy rooms a 
few streets off, in which not only George Sarratt's 
fate, but her own, as it often seemed to Nelly, were 
being slowly and inexorably decided, passed endlessly 
through her brain, as she mechanically took off her 
things, and brushed her hair. 

Presently she was following Bridget across the hall 
to the drawing-room. Bridget seemed already to 
know all about the flat. * The dining-room opens out 
of the drawing-room. It's all Japanese,' she said 
complaisantly, turning back to her sister. * Isn't it 
jolly? Miss Farrell furnished it. Sir William let 
her have it all her own way.' 

Nelly looked vaguely round the drawing-room, 
which had a blue Persian carpet, pale purple walls, 
hung with Japanese colour prints, a few chairs, one 
comfortable sofa, a couple of Japanese cabinets, and 
pots of Japanese lilies in the corners. It was a room 
not meant for living in. There was not a book in 
it anywhere. It looked exactly what it was a 
perching-place for rich people, who liked their own 
ways, and could not be bored with hotels. 

The dining-room was equally bare, costly, and 
effective. Its only ornament was a Chinese Buddha, 
a great terra-cotta, marvellously alive, which had 



I 7 6 'MISSING' 

been looted from some Royal tomb, and now sat 
serenely out of place, looking over the dainty 
luncheon-table to the square outside, and wrapt in 
dreams older than Christianity. 

The flat was nominally lent to * Mrs. Sarratt,' but 
Bridget was managing everything, and had never 
felt so much in her element in her life. She sat 
at the head of the table, helped Nelly, gave all the 
orders, and was extraordinarily brisk and cheerful. 

Nelly scarcely touched anything, and Mrs. Simp- 
son who waited was much concerned. 

4 Perhaps you'd tell Simpson anything you could 
fancy, Madam,' she said anxiously in Nelly's ear, as 
she handed the fruit. Nelly must needs smile when 
anyone spoke kindly to her. She smiled now, though 
very wearily. 

* Why, it's all beautiful, thank you. But I'm not 
hungry.' 

* We'll have coffee in the drawing-room, please, 
Mrs. Simpson,' said Bridget rising a tall masterful 
figure, in a black silk dress, which she kept for best 
occasions. * Now Nelly, you must rest.' 

Nelly let herself be put on the sofa in the drawing- 
room, and Bridget after praising the coffee, the 
softness of the chairs, the beauty of the Japanese 
lilies, and much speculation on the value of the Per- 
sian carpet which, she finally decided, was old and 
priceless announced that she was going for a walk. 

'Why don't you come too, Nelly? Come and 
look at the shops. You shouldn't mope all day long. 



'MISSING' 177 

If they do send for you to nurse George, you won't 
have the strength of a cat.' 

But Nelly had shrunk into herself. She said she 
would stay in and write a letter to Hester Martin. 
Presently she was left alone. Mrs. Simpson had 
cleared away, and shut all the doors between the 
sitting-rooms and the kitchen. Inside the flat noth- 
ing was to be heard but the clock ticking on the 
drawing-room mantelpiece. Outside, there were in- 
termittent noises and rattles from the traffic in the 
square, and beyond that again the muffled insistent 
murmur which seemed to Nelly this afternoon in 
her utter loneliness the most desolate sound she had 
ever heard. The day had turned to rain and dark- 
ness, and the rapid closing of the October afternoon 
prophesied winter. Nelly could not rouse herself to 
write the letter to Miss Martin. She lay prone in 
a corner of the sofa, dreaming, as she had done all 
her life ; save that the faculty of setting in motion 
at will a stream of vivid and connected images 
which had always been one of her chief pleasures, 
was now an obsession and a torment. How often, 
in her wakeful nights at Rydal, had she lived over 
again every moment in the walk to Blea Tarn, till 
at last, gathered once more on George's knees, and 
nestling to his breast, she had fallen asleep com- 
forted. 

She went through it all, once more, in this strange 
room, as the darkness closed; only the vision ended 
now, not in a tender thrill half conscious, fading 



178 'MISSING' 

into sleep of remembered joy, but in an anguish of 
sobbing, the misery of the frail tormented creature, 
unable to bear its life. 

Nevertheless sleep came. For nights she had 
scarcely slept, and in the silence immediately round 
her the distant sounds gradually lost their dreary 
note, and became a rhythmical and soothing influ- 
ence. She fell into a deep unconsciousness. 

An hour later, a tall man rang at the outer door 
of the flat. Mrs. Simpson obeyed the summons, and 
found Sir William Farrell on the threshold. 

' Well, have they come ? ' 

1 Oh, yes, sir.' And Mrs. Simpson gave a rapid, 
sotto voce account of the visitors' arrival, their lunch, 
Mrs. Sarratt's sad looks ' poor little lady ! ' and 
much else. 

Sir William stepped in. 

' Are they at home ? ' 

Mrs. Simpson shook her head. 

' They went out after lunch, Sir William, and I 
have not heard them come in.' 

Which, of course, was a mistake on the part of 
Mrs. Simpson, who, hearing the front door close half 
an hour after luncheon and no subsequent movement 
in the flat, had supposed that the sisters had gone 
out together. 

'All right. I'll wait for them. I want to see 
Mrs. Sarratt before I start. You may get me a cup 
of tea, if you like.' 



'MISSING' 179 

Mrs. Simpson disappeared with alacrity, and Far- 
rell crossed the hall to the drawing-room. He turned 
on the light as he opened the door, and was at once 
aware of Nelly's slight form on the sofa. She did 
not move, and something in her attitude some 
rigidity that he fancied alarmed him. He took a 
few steps, and then saw that there was no cause for 
alarm. She was only asleep, poor child, profoundly, 
pathetically asleep. Her utter unconsciousness, the 
delicate hand and arm lying over the edge of the 
sofa, and the gleam of her white forehead under its 
muffling cloud of hair, moved him strangely. He re- 
treated as quietly as he could, and almost ran into 
Mrs. Simpson bringing a tray. He beckoned her 
into a small room which he used as his own den. 
But he had hardly explained the situation, before 
there were sounds in the drawing-room, and Nelly 
opened the door, which he had closed behind him. 
He had forgotten to turn out the light, and its glare 
had awakened her. 

* Oh, Sir William ' she said, in bewilderment 
* Did you come in just now? ' 

He explained his proceedings, retaining the hand 
she gave him, and looking down upon her with an 
impulsive and affectionate pity. 

' You were asleep. I disturbed you,' he said, 
remorsefully. 

* Oh no, do come in.' 

She led the way into the drawing-room. 

1 1 wanted specially to tell you some things I 



i8o 'MISSING' 

heard at Aldershot to-day, which I thought might 
cheer you,' said Farrell. 

And sitting beside her, while Mrs. Simpson lit a 
fire and spread a white tea-table, hejrepeated various 
stories of the safe return of ' missing ' men which he 
had collected for her that morning, including the 
narrative of an escaped prisoner, who, although 
badly wounded, had managed to find his way back, 
at night, from the neighbourhood of Brussels, through 
various hairbreadth adventures and disguises, and 
after many weeks to the British lines. He brought 
the tale to her, as an omen of hope, together with his 
other gleanings; and under the influence of his cheer- 
ful voice and manner, Nelly's aspect changed; the 
light came back into her eyes, which hung upon him, 
as Farrell talked on, persuading himself, as he per- 
suaded her. So that presently, when tea came in, 
and the kettle boiled, she was quite ready to pour 
out for him, to ask him questions about his night 
journey, and thank him timidly for all his 
kindness. 

* But this this is too grand for us ! ' she said, 
looking round her. ' We must find a lodging soon.' 

He begged her earnestly to let the flat be of use 
to her, and she, embarrassed and unwilling, but 
dreading to hurt his feelings, was compelled at last 
to submit to a week's stay. 

Then he got up to go; and she was very sorry 
to say good-bye to him. As for him, in her wistful 
and gracious charm, she had never seemed to him 



'MISSING' 181 

more lovely. How she became grief ! in her meas- 



ure reserve 



He ran down the stairs of the mansion just as 
Bridget Cookson arrived with the lift at the third 
floor. She recognised the disappearing figure, and 
stood a moment at the door of the flat, looking after 
it, a gleam of satisfaction in her eyes. 



PART II 



CHAPTER IX 

'TSsheout?' 

The questioner was William Farrell, and 
the question was addressed to his cousin Hes- 
ter, whom he had found sitting in the little upstairs 
drawing-room of the Rydal lodgings, partly knitting, 
but mostly thinking, to judge from her slowly moving 
needles, and her absent eyes fixed upon the garden 
outside the open window. 

' She has gone down to the lake it is good for 
her to be alone a bit.' 

' You brought her up from Torquay? ' 

1 1 did. We slept in London, and arrived yester- 
day. Miss Cookson comes this evening.' 

1 Why doesn't she keep away? ' said Farrell, im- 
patiently. 

He took a seat opposite his cousin. He was in 
riding-dress, and looked in splendid case. From his 
boyhood he had always been coupled in Hester's 
mind with the Biblical words ' ruddy and of a 
cheerful countenance ' ; and as he sat there flushed 
with air and exercise, they fitted him even better 
than usual. Yet there was modern subtlety too in 
his restless eyes, and mouth alternately sensitive and 
ironic. 

185 



'i86 'MISSING' 

Hester's needles began to ply a little faster. A 
spring wind came through the window, and stirred 
her grey hair. 

'How did she get over it yesterday?' Farrell 
presently asked. 

* Well, of course it was hard,' said Hester, quietly. 
1 1 let her alone, poor child, and I told Mrs. Weston 
not to bother her. She came up to these rooms and 
shut herself up a little. I went over to my own 
cottage, and came back for supper. Then she had 
got it over and I just kissed her and said nothing. 
It was much best.' 

'Do you think she gives up hope ? ' 

Hester shook her head. 

' Not the least. You can see that.' 

' What do you mean? ' 

' When she gives up hope, she will put on a black 
dress.' 

Farrell gave an impatient sigh. 

' You know there can't be the smallest, doubt that 
Sarratt is dead! He died in some German hospital, 
and the news has never come through.' 

' The Red Cross people at Geneva declare that if 
he had died in hospital they would know. The 
identification disks are returned to them so they 
say with remarkable care.' 

' Well then, he died on the field, and the Germans 
buried him.' 

' In which case the poor soul will know nothing 



'MISSING' 187 

ever,' said Hester sadly. ' But, of course, she 
believes he is a prisoner.' 

* My dear Hester, if he were, we should certainly 
have heard! Enquiries are now much more thor- 
ough, and the results much more accurate, than they 
were a year ago.' 

'Loss of memory? shell-shock?' said Hester 
vaguely. 

* They don't do away with your disk, and your 
regimental marks, etc. Whatever may happen to a 
private, an officer doesn't slip through and vanish 
like this, if he is still alive. The thing is perfectly 
clear.' 

Hester shook her head without speaking. She 
was just as thoroughly convinced as Farrell that 
Nelly was a widow; but she did not see how any- 
body could proclaim it before Nelly did. 

1 1 wonder how long it will take to convince her,' 
said Farrell, after a pause. 

4 Well, I suppose when peace comes, if there's no 
news then, she will have to give it up. By the ^vay, 
when may one legally presume that one's husband 
is dead? ' asked Hester, suddenly lifting her shrewd 
grey eyes to the face of her visitor. 

* It used to be seven years. But I believe now you 
can go to the Courts ' 

'If a woman wants to remarry? Well that, of 
course, Nelly Sarratt will never do! ' 

' My dear Hester, what nonsense ! ' said Farrell, 



i88 'MISSING' 

vehemently. ' Of course she'll marry again. What 
is she? twenty-one? It would be a sin and a 
shame.' 

' I only meant she would never take any steps of 
her own will to separate herself from Sarratt.' 

4 Women look at things far too sentimentally ! ' 
exclaimed Farrell, * and they just spoil their lives. 
However, neither you nor I can prophesy anything. 
Time works wonders; and if he didn't, we should all 
be wrecks and lunatics ! ' 

Hester said nothing. She was conscious of sup-* 
pressed excitement in the man before her. Farrell 
watched her knitting fingers for a little, and then 
remarked : 

' But of course at present what has to be done, is 
to improve her health, and distract her thoughts.' 

Hester's eyes lifted again. 

* And you want to take it in hand? ' 

Her emphasis on the pronoun was rather sharp. 
Farrell's fair though sunburnt skin shewed a sudden 
redness. 

4 Yes, I do. Why shouldn't I?' His look met 
hers full. 

4 She's very lonely very unprotected,' said Hes- 
ter, slowly. 

1 You mean, you can't trust me ? ' he said, flush- 
ing deeper. 

' No, Willy no ! ' Hester's earnest, perplexed 
look appeased his rising anger. ' But it's a very 
difficult position, you must see for yourself. Ever 



'MISSING' 189 

since George Sarratt disappeared, you've been 
what shall I say? the poor child's earthly Provi- 
dence. Her illness her convalescence you've 
done everything you've provided everything ' 

* With her sister's consent, remember ! and I 
promised Sarratt to look after them! ' 

Farrell's blue eyes were now bright and stubborn. 
Hester realised him as ready for an argument which 
both he and she had long foreseen. She and Farrell 
had always been rather intimate friends, and he had 
come to her for advice in some very critical moments 
of his life. 

' Her sister ! ' repeated Hester, contemptuously. 
* Yes, indeed, Bridget Cookson in my opinion is 
a great deal too ready to accept everything you do ! 
But Nelly has fought it again and again. Only, in 
her weakness, with you on one side and Bridget on 
the other what could she do ? ' 

She had taken the plunge now. Her own colour 
had risen her hand shook a little on her needles. 
And she had clearly roused some strong emotion in 
Farrell. After a few moments' silence, he fell upon 
her, speaking rather huskily. 

' You mean I have taken advantage of her? ' 

* I don't mean anything of the kind ! ' Hester's 
tone shewed her distress. * I know that all you have 
done has been out of pure friendship and good- 
ness ' 

He stopped her. 

* Don't go on ! ' he said roughly. * Whatever I 



i 9 o 'MISSING' 

am, I'm not a hypocrite. I worship the ground she 
treads on ! ' 

There was silence. Hester bent again over her 
work. The thoughts of both flew back over the pre- 
ceding six months. Nelly's utter collapse after five 
or six weeks in London, when the closest enquiries, 
backed by FarreH's intelligence, influence and money 
he had himself sent out a special agent to 
Geneva had failed to reveal the slightest trace of 
George Sarratt; her illness, pneumonia, the result 
of a slight chill affecting a general physical state 
depressed by grief, and sleeplessness; her long and 
tedious convalescence; and that pitiful dumbness and 
inertia from which she had only just begun to emerge. 
Hester was thinking too of the nurses, the doctors, 
the lodgings at Torquay, the motor, the endless flow- 
ers and books ! all provided, practically, by Farrell, 
aided and abetted by Bridget's readiness a dis- 
creditable readiness, in the eyes of a person of such 
Spartan standards as Hester Martin to avail her- 
self to any extent of other people's money. The 
patient was not to blame. Even in the worst times 
of her illness, Nelly had shewn signs of distress and 
revolt. But Bridget, instructed by Farrell, had 
talked vaguely of * a loan from a friend ' ; and Nelly 
had been too ill, too physically weak, to urge enquiry 
further. 

Seeing that he was to blame, Farrell broke in upon 
Hester's recollections. 

' You know very well ' he said vehemently 



'MISSING' 191 

1 that if anything less had been done for her, she 
would have died! ' 

Would she? It was the lavishness and costliness 
of Farrell's giving which had shocked Hester's sense 
of delicacy, and had given rise she was certain to 
gossip among the Farrell friends and kindred that 
could easily have been avoided. She looked at her 
companion steadily. 

' Suppose we grant it, Willy. But now she's con- 
valescent, she's going to get strong. Let her live 
her own life. You can't marry her and ' she 
added it deliberately ' she is as much in love with 
her poor George as she ever was ! ' 

Farrell moved restlessly in his chair. She saw him 
wince and she had intended the blow. 

* I can't marry her yet perhaps for years. But 
why can't I be her friend? Why can't I share with 
her the things that give me pleasure books art 
and all the rest? Why should you condemn me to 
see her living on a pittance, with nobody but a sister 
who is as hard as nails to look after her? lonely, 
and unhappy, and dull when I know that I could 
help her, turn her mind away from her trouble 
make her take some pleasure in life again ? You talk, 
Hester, as though we had a dozen lives to play with, 
instead of this one rickety business ! ' 

His resentment grew with the expression of it. 
But Hester met him unflinchingly. 

' I'm anxious because human nature is human 
nature and risk is risk,' she said slowly. 



192 'MISSING' 

He bent forward, his hands on his knees. 

* I swear to you I will be honestly her friend ! 
What do you take me for, Hester? You know 
very well that I have had my adventures, and 
they're over. I'm not a boy. I can answer for 
myself.' 

4 All very well ! but suppose suppose before 
she felt herself free and against her conscience 
she were to fall in love with you?' 

Farrell could not conceal the flash that the mere 
words, reluctantly as they were spoken, sent through 
his blue eyes. He laughed. 

' Well you're there ! Act watch-dog as much as 
you please. Besides we all know you have just 
said so that she does not believe in Sarratt's death, 
that she feels herself still his wife, and not his 
widow. That fact establishes the relation between 
her and me. And if the outlook changes ' 

His voice dropped to a note of pleading 

' Let me, Hester ! let me ! ' 

* As if I could prevent you ! ' said Hester, rather 
bitterly, bending again over her work. 

' Yes, you could. You have such influence with 
her now, that you could banish me entirely if you 
pleased. A word from you would do it. But it 
would be hideously cruel of you and abominally 
unjust ! However, I know your power over her 
and so over me. And so I made up my mind it was 
no good trying to conceal anything from you. I've 
told you straight out. I love her and because I 



'MISSING' 193 

love her you may be perfectly certain I shall pro- 
tect her ! ' 

Silence again. Farrell had turned towards the 
open window. When Hester turned her eyes she saw 
his handsome profile, his Nibelung's head and beard 
against the stony side of the fell. A man with unfair 
advantages, it seemed to her, if he chose to put out 
his strength; the looks of a king, a warm heart, 
a sympathetic charm, felt quite as much by men as 
by women, and ability which would have distin- 
guished him in any career, if his wealth had not put 
the drag on industry. But at the moment he was not 
idle. He was more creditably and fully employed 
then she had ever known him. His hospital and his 
pride in it were in fact Nelly Sarratt's best safeguard. 
Whatever he wished, he could not possibly spend all 
his time at her feet. 

Hester tried one more argument the conven- 
tional. 

' Have you ever really asked yourself, Willy, how 
it will look to the outside world what people will 
think? It is all very well to scoff at Mrs. Grundy, 
but the poor child has no natural guardian. We both 
agree her sister is no use to her.' 

* Let them think ! ' he turned to her again with 
energy ' so long as you and I know. Besides I 
shan't compromise her in any way. I shall be most 
careful not to do so.' 

' Look at this room ! ' said Hester drily. She 



194 'MISSING' 

herself surveyed it. Farrell's laugh had a touch of 
embarrassment. 

* Well ? mayn't anyone give things to a sick 
child? Hush! here she is! ' 

He drew further back into the room, and they 
both watched a little figure in a serge dress crossing 
the footbridge beyond the garden. Then she came 
into the garden, and up the sloping lawn, her hat 
dangling in her hand, and the spring sunshine upon 
her. Hester thought of the preceding June; of the 
little bride, with her springing step, and radiant eyes. 
Nelly, as she was now, seemed to her the typical 
figure or rather, one of the two typical figures of 
the war the man in action, the woman in bereave- 
ment. Sorrow had marked her ; bitten into her youth, 
and blurred it. Yet it had also dignified and refined 
her. She was no less lovely. 

As she approached, she saw them and waved to 
them. Farrell went to the sitting-room door to meet 
her, and it seemed both to him and Hester that in 
spite of her emaciation and her pallor, she brought 
the spring in with her. She had a bunch of willow 
catkins and primroses in her hand, and her face, for 
all its hollow cheeks and temples, shewed just a 
sparkle of returning health. 

It was clear that she was pleased to see Farrell. But 
her manner of greeting him now was very different 
from what it had been in the days before her loss. It 
was much quieter and more assured. His seniority 
there were nineteen years between them his con- 



'MISSING' 195 

spicuous place in the world, his knowledge and ac- 
complishment, had evidently ceased to intimidate her. 
Something had equalised them. 

But his kindness could still make her shy. 

Half-way across the room, she caught sight of a 
picture, on an easel, both of which Farrell had 
brought with him. 

* Oh ! ' she said, and stopped short, looking 

from it to him. 

He enjoyed her surprise. 

' Well? Do you remember admiring it at the cot- 
tage ? I'm up to the neck in work. I never go there. 
I thought you and Hester might as well take care of 
it for a bit.' 

Nelly approached it. It was one of the Turner 
water-colours which glorified the cottage; the most 
adorable, she thought, of all of them. It shewed a 
sea of downs, their grassy backs flowing away wave 
after wave, down to the real sea in the gleaming 
distance. Between the downs ran a long valley floor 
cottages on it, woods and houses, farms and 
churches, strung on a silver river; under the mingled 
cloud and sunshine of an April day. It breathed the 
very soul of England, of this sacred long-descended 
land of ours. Sarratt, who had stood beside her 
when she had first looked at it, had understood it so 
at once. 

1 Jolly well worth fighting for this country ! isn't 
it? ' he had said to Farrell over her head, and once 
or twice afterwards he had spoken to her of the draw- 



196 'MISSING' 

ing with delight. ' I shall think of it over there. 
It'll do one good.' 

As she paused before it now, a sob rose in her 
throat. But she controlled herself quickly. Then 
something beyond the easel caught her eye a mass 
of flowers, freesias, narcissus, tulips, tumbled on a 
table; then a pile of new books; and finally, a sur- 
prising piece of furniture. 

'What have you been doing now?' she asked 
him, wondering, and, as Hester thought, shrinking 
back a little. 

* It's from Cicely ' he said apologetically. ' She 
made me bring it. She declared she'd sampled the 
sofa here, ' he pointed to an ancient one in a corner 
* and it would disgrace a dug-out. It's her affair 
don't blame me ! ' 

Nelly looked bewildered. 

* But I'm not ill now. I'm getting well.' 

4 If you only knew what a ghost you look still,' 
he said vehemently, * you'd let Cicely have her little 
plot. This used to stand in my mother's sitting- 
room. It was bought for her. Cicely had it put to 
rights.' 

As he spoke, he made a hasty mental note that 
Cicely would have to be coached in her part. 

Nelly examined the object. It was a luxurious 
adjustable couch, covered in flowery chintz, with a 
reading-desk, and well supplied with the softest 
cushions. 



'MISSING' 197 

She laughed, but there was rather a flutter in her 
laugh. 

' It's awfully kind of Cicely. But you know ' 

Her eyes turned on Farrell with a sudden insist- 
ence. Hester had just left the room, and her distant 
voice with other voices could be heard in the 
garden. 

4 You know you mustn't all of you spoil 

me so, any more. I've got my life to face. You 
mean it so kindly but ' 

She sank into a chair by the window that Farrell 
had placed for her, and her aspect struck him pain- 
fully. There was so much weakness in it; and yet 
a touch of fierceness. 

4 I've got my life to face,' she repeated ' and you 
mustn't, Sir William you mustn't let me get too 
dependent on you and Cicely and Hester. Be my 
friend my true friend and help me ' 

She bent forward, and her pale lips just breathed 
the rest 

1 Help me to endure Aar*fri/_ That's what I 
want for George's sake and my own. I must find 
sOTfiFwork to doT~ In a few months perhaps 1 might 
be able to teach but; there are plenty of things I 
could do now. I want to be just neglected a little 
treated as a normal person! ' 

She smiled faintly at him as he stood beside her. 
He felt himself rebuked abashed as though he 
had been in some sort an intruder on her spiritual 
freedom; had tried to purchase her dependence by 



i 9 8 'MISSING' 

a kindness she did not want. That was not in her 
mind, he knew. But it was in Hester's. And there 
was not wanting a certain guilty consciousness in his 
own. 

But he threw it off. Absurdity! She did need 
his friendship; and he had done what he had done 
without the shadow of a corrupt motive en tout 
bien, tout honneur. 

It was intolerable to him to think of her as poor 
and resourceless left to that disagreeable sister and 
her own melancholy thoughts. Still the first need 
of all was that she should trust him as a good 
friend, who had slipped by force of circumstances 
into a kind of guardian's position. Accordingly he 
applied himself to the kind of persuasion that befits 
seniority and experience. She had asked to be 
treated as a normal person. He proved to her, 
gently laughing at her, that the claim was prepos- 
terous. Ask her doctor! ask Hester! As for 
teaching, time enough to talk about that when she 
had a little flesh on her bones, a little strength in her 
limbs. She might read, of course; that was what 
the couch was for. Lying there by the window she 
might become as learned as she liked, and get strong 
at the same time. He would keep her stocked with 
books. The library at Carton was going mouldy for 
lack of use. And as for her drawing, he had hoped 
perhaps she might some time take a lesson 

Then he saw a little shiver run through her. 

' Could I ? ' she said in a low voice, turning her 



'MISSING' 199 

face away. And he perceived that the bare idea of 
resuming old pleasures the pleasures of her happy, 
her unwidowed time was still a shock to her. 

4 I'm sure it would help ' he said, persevering. 
* You have a real turn for water-colour. You should 
cultivate it you should really. In my belief you 
might do a great deal better with it than with 
teaching.' 

That roused her. She sat up, her eyes brightening. 

' If I worked you really think? And then,' her 
voice dropped * if George came back ' 

1 Exactly,' he said gravely ' it might be of great 
use. Didn't you wish for something normal to do ? 
Well, here's the chance. I can supply you with 
endless subjects to copy. There are more in the 
cottage than you would get through in six months. 
And I could send you over portfolios of my own 
studies and academies, done at Paris, and in the 
Slade, which would help you and sometimes we 
could take some work out of doors.' 

She said nothing, but her sad puzzled eyes, as they 
wandered over the garden and the lake, shewed that 
she was considering it. 

Then suddenly her expression changed. 

' Isn't that Cicely's voice ? ' She motioned towards 
the garden. 

* I daresay. I sent on the motor to meet her at 
Windermere. She's been in town for two or three 
weeks, selling at Red Cross Bazaars and things. And 
by George ! isn't that Marsworth? ' 



200 'MISSING' 

He sprang up to look, and verified his guess. The 
tall figure on the lawn with Cicely and Hester was 
certainly Marsworth. He and Nelly looted at each 
other, and Nelly smiled. 

* You know Cicely and I have become great 
friends? ' she said shyly. ' It's so odd that I should 
call her Cicely but she makes me.' 

' She treats you nicely? at last? ' 

4 She's awfully good to me,' said Nelly, with em- 
phasis. * I used to be so afraid of her.' 

'What wrought the miracle?' 

But Nelly shook her head, and would not tell. 

4 1 had a letter from Marsworth a week ago,' 
said Farrell reflecting ' asking how and where we 
all were. I told him I was tied and bound to Carton 
no chance of getting away for ages but that 
Cicely had kicked over the traces and gone up to 
London for a month. Then he sent a post-card to 
say that he was coming up for a fortnight's treatment, 
and would go to his old quarters at the Rectory. 
Ah! ' 

He paused, grinning. The same thought occurred 
to both of them. Marsworth was still suffering very 
much at times from his neuralgia in the arm, and 
had a great belief in one of the Carton surgeons, 
who, with Farrell's aid, had now installed one of the 
most complete electrical and gymnastic apparatus in 
the kingdom, at the Carton hospital. Once, dur- 
ing an earlier absence of Cicely's before Christ- 
mas, he had suddenly appeared at the Rectory, for 



'MISSING' 201 

ten days' treatment; and now again! Farrell 
laughed. 

* As for Cicely, you can never count on her for a 
week together. She got home-sick, and wired to me 
that she was coming to-night. I forgot all about 
Marsworth. I expect they met at the station; and 
quarrelled all the way here. What on earth is Cicely 
after in that direction ! You say you've made friends 
with her. Do you know ? ' 

Neliy looked conscious. 

1 1 I guess something,' she said. 

* But you mustn't tell ? ' 

She nodded, smiling. Farrell shrugged his 
shoulders. 

* Well, am I to encourage Marsworth supposing 
he comes to me for advice to go and propose to the 
Rector's granddaughter?' 

' Certainly not ! ' said Nelly, opening a pair of 
astonished eyes. 

' Aha, I've caught you ! You've given the show 
away. But you know ' his tone grew serious ' it's 
not at all impossible that he may. She torments 
him too much.' 

' He must do nothing of the kind,' said Nelly, 
with decision. 

' Well, you tell him so. I wash my hands of 
them. I can't fathom either of them. Here they 
are!' 

Voices ascending the stairs announced the party. 
Cicely came in first; tired and travel-stained, and 



202 'MISSING' 

apparently in the worst of tempers. But she seemed 
glad to see Nelly Sarratt, whom she kissed, to the 
astonishment of her Cousin Hester, who was not as 
yet aware of the new relations between the two. 
And then, flinging herself into a chair beside Nelly, 
she declared that she was dead-beat, that the train 
had been intolerably full of khaki, and that soldiers 
ought to have trains to themselves. 

' Thank your stars, Cicely, that you are allowed 
to travel at all,' said Farrell. ' No civilian nowa- 
days matters a hap'orth.' 

' And then we talk about Prussian Militarism ! ' 
cried Cicely. And she went off at score describing 
the invasion of her compartment at Rugby by a 
crowd of young officers, whose manners were 
1 atrocious.' 

'What was their crime?' asked Marsworth, 
quietly. He sat in the background, cigarette in hand, 
a strong figure, rather harshly drawn, black hair 
slightly grizzled, a black moustache, civilian clothes. 
He had filled out since the preceding summer and 
looked much better in health. But his left arm was 
still generally in its sling. 

' They had every crime ! ' said Cicely impatiently. 
* It isn't worth discriminating.' 

Marsworth raised his eyebrows. 

' Poor boys ! ' 

Cicely flushed. 

* You think, of course, I have no right to criticise 
anything in khaki ! ' 



'MISSING' 203 

4 Not at all. Criticism is the salt of life.' His 
eyes twinkled. 

* That I entirely deny! ' said Cicely, firmly. She 
made a fantastic but agreeable figure as she sat near 
the window in the full golden light of the March 
evening. Above her black toque there soared a 
feather which almost touched the ceiling of the low 
room a panache, nodding defiance ; while her short 
grey skirts shewed her shapely ankles and feet, 
clothed in grey gaiters and high boots of the very 
latest perfection. 

' What do you deny, Cicely? ' asked her brother, 
absently, conscious always, through all the swaying 
of talk, of the slight childish form of Nelly Sarratt 
beneath him, in her deep chair; and of the eyes and 
mouth, which after the few passing smiles he had 
struck from them, were veiled again in their habitual 
sadness. ' Here I and sorrow sit.' The words ran 
through his mind, only to be passionately rejected. 
She was young! and life was long. Forget she 
would, and must. 

At her brother's question, Cicely merely shrugged 
her shoulders. 

' Your sister was critical,' said Marsworth, laugh- 
ing, ' and then denies the uses of criticism.' 

' As some people employ it ! ' said Cicely, 
pointedly. 

Marsworth's mouth twitched but he said 
nothing. 

Then Hester, perceiving that the atmosphere was 



204 'MISSING' 

stormy, started some of the usual subjects that re- 
lieve tension ; the weather the possibility of a rush 
of Easter tourists to the Lakes the daffodils that 
were beginning to make beauty in some sheltered 
places. Marsworth assisted her; while Cicely took 
a chair beside Nelly, and talked exclusively to her, 
in a low voice. Presently Hester saw their hands 
slip together Cicely's long and vigorous fingers 
enfolding Nelly's thin ones. How had two such 
opposites ever come to make friends? The kindly 
old maid was very conscious of cross currents in 
the spiritual air, as she chatted to Marsworth. She 
was keenly aware of Farrell, and could not keep the 
remembrance of what he had said to her out of her 
mind. Nelly's face and form, also, as the twilight 
veiled them, were charged for Hester with pitiful 
meaning. While at the back of her thoughts there 
was an expectation, a constant and agitating expecta- 
tion, of another arrival. Bridget Cookson might be 
upon them at any moment. To Hester Martin she 
was rapidly becoming a disquieting and sinister ele- 
ment in this group of people. Yet why, Hester could 
not really have explained. 

The afternoon was rapidly drawing in, and Far- 
rell was just beginning to take out his watch, and talk 
of starting home, when the usual clatter of wheels 
and hoofs announced the arrival of the evening 
coach. Nelly sat up, looking very white and weary. 

1 1 am expecting my sister,' she said to Farrell. 
* She has no doubt come by this coach.' 



'MISSING' 205 

And in a few more minutes, Bridget was in the 
room, distributing to everybody there the careless 
staccato greetings which were her way of protecting 
herself against the world. Her entrance and her 
manner had always a disintegrating effect upon 
other human beings; and Bridget had no sooner 
shaken hands with the Farrells than everybody 
save Nelly was upon their feet and ready to move. 
One of Bridget's most curious and marked charac- 
teristics was an unerring instinct for whatever news 
might be disagreeable to the company in which she 
found herself; and on this occasion she brought some 
bad war news a German advance at Verdun, with 
corresponding French losses and delivered it with 
the emphasis of one to whom it was not really un- 
welcome. Cicely, to whom, flourishing her evening 
paper, she had mainly addressed herself, listened 
with the haughty and casual air she generally put on 
for Bridget Cookson. She had succumbed for her 
own reasons to the charm of Nelly. She was only 
the more inclined to be rude to Bridget. Accordingly 
she professed complete incredulity on the subject 
of the news. 4 Invented,' she supposed ' to sell 
some halfpenny rag or other. It would all be con- 
tradicted to-morrow.' Then when Bridget, smarting 
under so much scepticism, attempted to support her 
tale by the testimony of various stale morsels of 
military gossip, current in a certain pessimist and 
pacifist household she had been visiting in Manches- 
ter, as to the unfavourable situation in France, and 



206 'MISSING' 

the dead certainty of the loss of Verdun; passing 
glibly on to the * bad staff work ' on the British side, 
and the ' poor quality of the new officers compared to 
the old,' etc. Cicely visibly turned up her nose, and 
with a few deft, cat-like strokes put a raw provincial 
in her place. She, Cicely, of course she made it 
plain, by a casual hint or two had just come from 
the very centre of things; from living on a social 
diet of nothing less choice than Cabinet Ministers 
and leading Generals Bonar Law, Asquith, Cur- 
zon, Briand, Lloyd George, Thomas, the great 
Joffre himself. Bridget began to scowl a little, and 
had it been anyone else than Cicely Farrell who was 
thus chastising her, would soon have turned her back 
upon them. For she was no indiscriminate respecter 
of persons, and cared nothing at all about rank or 
social prestige. But from a Farrell she took all 
things patiently; till Cicely, suddenly discovering that 
her victim was giving her no sport, called peremp- 
torily to * Willy ' to help her put on her cloak. But 
Farrell was having some last words with Nelly, and 
Marsworth came forward 

Let me ' 

1 Oh thank you ! ' said Cicely carelessly, * I can 
manage it myself.' And she did not allow him to 
touch it. 

Marsworth retreated, and Hester, who had seen 
the little incident, whispered indignantly in her 
cousin's ear 

* Cicely ! you are a wicked little wretch 1 ' 



'MISSING' 207 

But Cicely only laughed, and her feather made 
defiant nods and flourishes all the way down- 
stairs. 

1 Come along Marsworth, my boy,' said Farrell 
when the good-byes were said, and Hester stood 
watching their departure, while Cicely chattered 
from the motor, where she sat wrapped in furs 
against a rising east wind. * Outside or inside ? ' 
He pointed to the car. 

' Outside, thank you,' said Marsworth, with de- 
cision. He promptly took his place beside the 
chauffeur, and Farrell and his sister were left to each 
other's company. Farrell had seldom known his 
companion more cross and provoking than she was 
during the long motor ride home; and on their ar- 
rival at Carton she jumped out of the car, and with 
barely a nod to Marsworth, vanished into the house. 

Meanwhile Nelly had let Hester install her on the 
Carton couch, and lay there well shawled, beside 
the window, her delicate face turned to the lake and 
the mountains. Bridget was unpacking, and Hester 
was just departing to her own house. Nelly could 
hardly let her go. For a month now, Hester had been 
with her at Torquay, while Bridget was pursuing 
some fresh * work ' in London. And Nelly's desolate 
heart had found both calm and bracing in Hester's 
tenderness. For the plain shapeless spinster was one 
of those rare beings who in the Lampadephoria of 
life, hand on the Lamp of Love, pure and undefiled, 



208 'MISSING' 

as they received it from men and women, like them- 
selves, now dead. 

But Hester went at last, and Nelly was alone. 
The lake lay steeped in a rich twilight, into which 
the stars were rising. The purple breast of Silver 
How across the water breathed of shelter, of rest, 
of things ineffable. Nelly's eyes were full of tears, 
and her hands clasped on her breast scarcely kept 
down the sobbing. There, under the hands, was the 
letter which George had written to her, the night 
before he left her. She had been told of its existence 
within a few days of his disappearance ; and though 
she longed for it, a stubborn instinct had bade her 
refuse to have it, refuse to open it. 'No! I was 
only to open it, if George was dead. And he is not 
dead ! ' And as time went on, it had seemed to her 
for months, as if to open it, would be in some mys- 
terious way to seal his fate. But at last she had sent 
for it at last she had read it with bitter tears. 

She would wear no black for him her lost lover. 
She told herself to hope still. But she was, in truth, 
beginning to despair. And into her veins, all uncon- 
sciously, as into those of the old brown earth, the 
tides of youth, the will to live, were slowly, slowly, 
surging back. 



CHAPTER X 

< X7"OU have gone far enough,' said Cicely im- 
| periously. ' I am going to take you home.' 

1 Let me sit a little first. It's all so lovely. 
Nelly dropped into the soft springy turf, dried 
by a mild east wind, and lay curled up under a rock, 
every tremulous nerve in her still frail body played 
on by the concert of earth and sky before her. It 
was May; the sky was china-blue, and the clouds 
sailed white upon it. The hawthorns too were white 
upon the fell-side, beside the ageing gold of the 
gorse, while below, the lake lay like roughened silver 
in its mountain cup, and on the sides of Nab Scar, 
below the screes, the bronze of the oaks ran in and 
out among the feathery green of the larch planta- 
tions, or the flowering grass of the hay-meadows 
dropping to the lake. The most spiritual moment of 
the mountain spring was over. This was earth in 
her moment of ferment, rushing towards the fruition 
of summer. 

Nelly's youth was keenly, automatically conscious 
of the physical pleasure of the day; except indeed 
for recurrent moments, when that very pleasure 
revived the sharpness of grief. Soon it would be the 
anniversary of her wedding day. Every hour of 
that day, and of the honeymoon bliss which followed 
209 



210 'MISSING' 

it, seemed to be still so close to her. Surely she 
had only to put out her hand to find his, and all the 
horror and the anguish swept away. Directly she 
shut her eyes on this spring scene, she was in that 
other life, which had been, and therefore must 
still be. 

But she had not been talking of him with Cicely. 
She very seldom talked of him now, or of the past. 
She kept up correspondence with half a dozen men 
of his company the brother officer to whom Sarratt 
had given his last letter a sergeant, and three or 
four privates, who had written to her about him. 
She had made friends with them all, especially with 
the young lieutenant. They seemed to like hearing 
from her; and she followed all their migrations and 
promotions with a constant sympathy. One of them 
had just written to her from a hospital at Boulogne. 
He had been seriously wounded in a small affair near 
Festubert early in May. He was getting better he 
said, but he hardly cared whether he recovered or not. 
Everybody he cared for in the regiment had ' gone 
west ' in the fighting of the preceding month. No big 
push either, just many little affairs that came to 
nothing it was ' damned luck ! ' There was one of 
his officers that he couldn't get over he couldn't get 
over ' Mr. Edward ' being killed. He the writer 
had been Mr. Edward's servant for a month or 
two having known his people at home and a nicer 
young fellow never stepped. ' When I go back, 
I'm going to look for Mr. Edward they say he was 



'MISSING' 211 

buried close to the trenches where he fell, and I'm 
going to put him in some quiet place ; and then when 
the war's over we can bring him back to Baston 
Magna, and lay him with his own people in Baston 
churchyard.' 

* I wonder who Mr. Edward was,' said Nelly to 
herself, with half shut eyes. She had entirely for- 
gotten Cicely's neighbourhood. But Cicely turned 
round, and asked her what she was thinking of. 
Nelly repeated the letter, and Cicely suddenly shewed 
agitation 'Edward! Baston Magna! he means 
Edward Longmore ! ' 

Cicely rarely cried. When she was moved, she 
had a way of turning a grey-white, and speaking 
with particular deliberation, as though every word 
were an effort. Of late, for some mysterious reason, 
she only indulged occasionally in * make-up ' ; there 
was no rouge, at any rate, on this afternoon, to 
disguise her change of colour. She looked oddly at 
Nelly. 

' I danced with him at Christmas,' she said. 
* There was a very smart party at a house in Gros- 
venor Square. The Prince was there, home on short 
leave, and about twenty young men in khaki, and 
twenty girls. Edward Longmore was there he 
wrote to me afterwards. Oh, he was much younger 
than I. He was the dearest, handsomest, bravest 
little fellow. When I saw his name in the list I 
just ' she ground her small white teeth ' I just 
cursed the war I Do you know ' she rolled, over on 



212 'MISSING' 

the grass beside Nelly, her chin in her hands * the 
July before the war, I used to play tennis in a garden 
near London. There were always five or six boys 
hanging about there jolly handsome boys, with 
everything that anybody could want family, and 
money, and lots of friends all the world before 
them. And there's not one of them left. They're 
all dead dead! Think of that! Boys of twenty 
and twenty-one. What'll the girls do they used to 
play and dance with ? All their playfellows are gone. 
They can't marry they'll never marry. It hadn't 
anything to do with me, of course. I'm twenty-eight. 
I felt like a mother to them! But I shan't marry 
either!' 

Nelly didn't answer for a moment. Then she 
put out a hand and turned Cicely's face towards 
her. 

' Where is he? and what is he doing? ' she said, 
half laughing, but always with that something behind 
her smile which seemed to set her apart. 

Cicely sat up. 

'He? Oh, that gentleman! Well, he has got 
some fresh work just the work he wanted, he says, 
in the Intelligence Department, and he writes to 
Willy that life is " extraordinarily interesting," and 
he's " glad to have lived to see this thing, horrible 
as it is." ' 

4 Well, you wouldn't wish him to be miserable ? ' 

* I should have no objection at all to his being 
miserable,' said Cicely calmly, ' but I am not such a 



'MISSING' 213 

fool as to suppose that I should ever know it, if he 
were.' 

'Cicely!' 

Cicely took up a stalk of grass, and began to bite 
it. Her eyes seemed on fire. Nelly was suddenly 
aware of the flaming up of fierce elemental things 
in this fashionably dressed young woman whose time 
was oddly divided between an important share in 
the running of her brother's hospital, and a hungry 
search after such gaieties as a world at war might 
still provide her with. She could spend one night 
absorbed in some critical case, and eagerly rendering 
the humblest V.A.D. service to the trained nurses 
whom her brother paid; and the next morning she 
would travel to London in order to spend the second 
night in one of those small dances at great houses of 
which she had spoken to Nelly, where the presence 
of men just come from, or just departing to, the fir- 
ing line lent a zest to the talk and the flirting, the 
jealousies and triumphs of the evening that the dances 
of peace must do without. Then after a morning of 
wild spending in the shops she would take a midday 
train back to Cumberland and duty. 

Nelly, looking at her, wondered afresh how they 
had ever come to be friends. Yet they were friends, 
and her interest in Cicely's affairs was one of the 
slender threads drawing her back to life. 

It had all happened when she was ill at the flat; 
after that letter from the Geneva Red Cros^whTch 



214 'MISSING' 

reported that in spite of exhaustive enquiries among 
German hospitals, and in the prisoners' camps no 
trace of Lieutenant Sarratt could be found. On the 
top of the letter, and the intolerable despair into 
which it had plunged her, had come influenza. There 
was no doubt Nelly's recollection faced it candidly 
i that she would have come off badly but for Cicely. 
Bridget had treated the illness on the hardening plan, 
being at the moment slightly touched with Christian 
Science. Nelly should ' think it away.' To stay in 
bed and give in was folly. She meanwhile had found 
plenty to do in London, and was away for long 
hours. In one of these absences, Cicely having 
been seized with a sudden hunger for the flesh-pots 
of * town ' appeared at the flat with her maid. She 
discovered Nelly Sarratt in bed, and so weak as to 
be hardly capable of answering any question. Mrs. 
Simpson was doing her best; but she gave an indig- 
nant account of Bridget's behaviour, and Cicely at 
once took a strong line, both as a professional nurse 
of sorts and as mistress of the flat. Bridget, 
grimly defensive, was peremptorily put on one side, 
and Cicely devoted the night she was to have spent 
in dancing to tending her half-conscious guest. In 
the days that followed she fell, quite against her 
will, under the touching charm of Nelly's refinement, 
humility and sweetness. Her own trenchant and 
masterful temper was utterly melted, for the time, 
by Nelly's helpless state, by the grief which threat- 
ened to kill her, and by a gratefulness for any kind- 



'MISSING' 215 

ness shewn her, which seemed to Cicely almost 
absurd. 

She fell in love impetuously with the little 
creature thus thrown upon her pity. She sent for 
a trained nurse and their own doctor. She wired 
for Hester Martin, and in forty-eight hours Bridget 
had been entirely ousted, and Nelly's state had begun 
to shew signs of improvement. Bridget took the 
matter stoically. ' I know nothing about nursing,' 
she said, with composure. ' If you wish to look after 
my sister, by all means look after her. Many thanks. 
I propose to go and stay near the British Museum, 
and will look in here when I can.' 

So she departed, and Cicely stayed in London 
for three weeks until Nelly was strong enough to 
go to Torquay. Then, reluctantly, she gave up her 
charge to Bridget, she being urgently wanted at 
Carton, and Hester at Rydal. Bridget reappeared 
on the scene with the same sangfroid as she had left 
it. She had no intention of quarrelling with the Far- 
rells whatever they might do; and in an eminently 
satisfactory interview with Sir William quite un- 
known to Nelly she allowed him to give her a 
cheque which covered all their expenses at Torquay. 

Meanwhile Nelly had discovered Cicely's secret 
which indeed was not very secret. Captain Mars- 
worth had appeared in London for the purpose of 
attending his Medical Board, and called at the flat. 
Nelly was by that time on the sofa, with Cicely keep- 
ing guard, and Nelly could sometimes deaden her 



216 'MISSING' 

own consciousness for a little in watching the two. 
What were they after? Marsworth's ethical enthu- 
siasms and resentments, the prophetic temper that 
was growing upon him in relation to the war, his 
impatience of idleness and frivolity and ' slackness,' 
of all modes of life that were not pitched in a key 
worthy of that continuous sacrifice of England's 
youngest and noblest that was going on perpetually 
across the Channel : these traits in him made it very 
easy to understand why, after years of philandering 
with Cicely Farrell, he was now, apparently, alienated 
from her, and provoked by her. But then, why did 
he still pursue her? why did he still lay claim to 
the privileges of their old intimacy, and why did 
Cicely allow him to do so ? 

At last one evening, after a visit from Mars- 
worth which had been one jar from beginning to 
end, Cicely had suddenly dropped on a stool, beside 
Nelly on the sofa. 

' What an intolerable man ! ' she said with crim- 
son cheeks. ' Shall I tell Simpson not to let him in 
again ? ' 

Nelly looked her surprise, for as yet there had 
been no confidence on this subject between them. 
And then had come a torrent Cicely walking storm- 
ily up and down the room, and pouring out her 
soul. 

The result of which outpouring was that through 
all the anger and denunciation, Nelly very plainly 
perceived that Cicely was a captured creature, en- 



'MISSING' 217 

deavouring to persuade herself that she was still 
free. She loved Marsworth and hated him. She 
could not make up her mind to give up for his sake 
the * lust of the eye and the pride of life,' as he 
clearly would endeavour to make her give them up, 
the wild bursts of gaiety and flirting for which she 
periodically rushed up to town, the passion for dress, 
the reckless extravagance with which it pleased her 
to shock him whenever they met. And he also so 
it seemed to Nelly was torn by contradictory feel- 
ings. As soon as Cicely was within reach, he could 
not keep away from her; and yet when confronted 
with her, and some new vagary, invented probably to 
annoy him, though he might refrain * even from 
good words,' his critical mouth and eye betrayed 
him, and set the offender in a fury. 

However, it was the quarrels between these two 
strange lovers, if they were lovers, that had made a 
friendship, warm and real on Cicely's side even 
impassioned between Nelly and Cicely. For Cicely 
had at last found someone not of her own world 
to whom she could talk in safety. Yet she had 
treated the Sarratts cavalierly to begin with, just 
because they were outsiders, and because ' Willy ' 
was making such a fuss with them; for she was 
almost as easily jealous in her brother's case as in 
Marsworth's. But_now Nelly's sad remotengssjrom 
ordinary life, her very social insignificance, and the 
lack of any links between her and the^grsat-Eajrell 
kinship of relations and friends, made her company, 



2i8 'MISSING' 

and her soft, listening ways specially welcome and 
soothing to Cicely's excited mood. 

During the latter half of the winter they had cor- 
responded, though Cicely was the worst of letter- 
writers; and since Nelly and her sister had been in 
Rydal again there had been constant meetings. 
Nelly's confidences in return for Cicely's were not 
many nor frequent. The effects of grief were to be 
seen in her aspect and movements, in her most 
pathetic smile, in her increased dreaminess, and the 
inertia against which she struggled in vain. Since 
May began, she had for the first time put on black. 
Nobody had dared to speak to her about it, so 
sharply did the black veil thrown back from the child- 
ish brow intensify the impression that she made, as of 
something that a touch might break. But the appear- 
ance of the widow's dress seemed to redouble the 
tenderness with which every member of the little 
group of people among whom she lived treated her 
always excepting her sister. Nelly had in vain pro- 
tested to Farrell against the ' spoiling ' of which she 
was the object. ' Spoiled ' she was, and it was clear 
both to Hester and Cicely, after a time, that 
though she had the will, she had not the strength to 
resist. 

Unless on one point. She had long since stopped 
all subsidies of money from Farrell through Bridget, 
having at last discovered the plain facts about them. 
Her letter of thanks to him for all he had done for 
her was at once so touching and so determined, that 



'MISSING' 219 

he had not dared since to cross her will. All that 
he now found it possible to urge was that the sisters 
would allow him to lend them a vacant farmhouse of 
his, not far from the Loughrigg Tarn cottage. Nelly 
had been so far unwilling; it was clear that her heart 
clung to the Rydal lodgings. But Hester and Cicely 
were both on Farrell's side. The situation of the 
farm was higher and more bracing than Rydal ; and 
both Cicely and Farrell cherished the notion of 
making it a home for Nelly, until indeed 

At this point Farrell generally succeeded in put- 
ting a strong rein upon his thoughts, as part of 
the promise he had made to Hester. But Cicely, 
who was much cooler and more matter of fact than 
her brother, had long since looked further ahead. 
Willy was in love, irrevocably in love with Nelly 
Sarratt. That had been plain to her for some time. 
Before those days in the flat, when she herself had 
fallen in love with Nelly, and before the disappear- 
ance of George Sarratt, she had resented Willy's 
absurd devotion to a little creature who, for all her 
beauty, seemed to Cicely merely an insignificant mem- 
ber of the middle classes, with a particularly impos- 
sible sister. And as to the notion that Mrs. Sarratt 
might become at some distant period her brother's 
wife, Lady Farrell of Carton, Cicely would have 
received it with scorn, and fought the realisation of it 
tooth and nail. Yet now all the * Farrell feeling,' 
the Farrell pride, in this one instance, at any rate, 



220 'MISSING' 

was gone. Why? Cicely didn't know. She sup- 
posed first because Nelly was such a dear creature, 
and next because the war had made such a curious 
difference in things. The old lines were being rubbed 
out. And Cicely, who had been in her day as exclu- 
sively snobbish as any other well-born damsel, felt 
now that it would not matter in the least if they 
remained rubbed out. Persons who ' did things ' by 
land or sea; persons who invented things; persons 
with ideas; persons who had the art of making 
others follow them into the jaws of death; these 
were going to be the aristocracy of the future. 
Though the much abused aristocracy of the present 
hadn't done badly either! 

So she was only concerned with the emotional 
aspects of her brother's state. \^as Nellvjnw rrn- 
vinced of her husband's death? was that what her 
black meant? And if she were convinced, and it 
were legally possible for her to marry again and all 
that what chance would there be for Willy ? Cicely 
was much puzzled by Nelly's relation to him. She 
had seen many signs, pathetic signs, of a struggle on 
Nelly's side against Farrell's influence; especially 
in the time immediately following her first return 
to the north in March. She had done her best then, 
it seemed to Cicely, to do without him and to turn 
to other interests and occupations than those he set 
her, and she had failed; partly no doubt owing to 
her physical weakness, which had put an end to many 
projects, that of doing week-end munition work for 



'MISSING' 221 

instance but still more, surely, to Farrell's own 
qualities. ' He is such a charmer with women,' 
thought Cicely, half smiling; 'that's what it is.' 

By which she meant that he had the very rare 
gift of tenderness; of being able to make a woman 
feel, that as a human being, quite apart from any 
question of passion, she interested and touched him. 
It was just sympathy, she supposed, the artistic mag- 
netic quality in him, which made him so attractive 
to women, and women so attractive to him. He was 
no longer a young man in the strict sense ; he was a 
man of forty, with the prestige of great accomplish- 
ment, and a wide knowledge of life. It was gener- 
ally supposed that he had done with love-affairs, and 
women instinctively felt it safe to allow him a per- 
sonal freedom towards them, which from other men 
would have offended them. He might pat a girl's 
shoulder, or lay a playful grasp on a woman's arm, 
and nobody minded ; it was a sign of his liking, and 
most people wished to be liked by him. However 
he never allowed himself any half-caress of the kind 
towards Nelly Sarratt now; and once or twice, in 
the old days, before Sarratt's disappearance, Cicely 
had fancied that she had seen Nelly check rather 
sharply one of these demonstrations of Willy's which 
were so natural to him, and in general so uncon- 
scious and innocent. 

And now he never attempted them. What did 
that mean ? Simply so Cicely thought that he was 
in love, and dared venture such things no longer. 



222 'MISSING' 

But all the same there were plenty of devices open 
to him by which week after week he surrounded 
Nelly with a network of care, which implied that he 
was always thinking of her; which were in fact a 
caress, breathing a subtle and restrained devotion, 
more appealing than anything more open. And 
Cicely seemed to see Nelly yielding unconsciously; 
unconsciously * spoilt,' and learning to depend on the 
* spoiler.' Why did Hester seem so anxious always 
about Farrell's influence with Nelly so ready to 
ward him off, if she could? For after all, thought 
Cicely, easily, however long it might take for Nelly 
to recover her hold on life, and to clear up the legal 
situation, there could be but one end of it. Willy 
meant to marry this little woman; and in the long 
run no woman would be able to resist him. 

The friends set out to stroll homewards through 
the long May evening, talking of the hideous Irish 
news how incredible amid the young splendour of 
the Westmorland May ! or of the progress of the 
war. 

Meanwhile Bridget Cookson was walking to meet 
them from the Rydal end of the Lake. She was 
accompanied by a Manchester friend, a young doc- 
tor, Howson by name, who had known the sisters 
before Nelly's marriage. He had come to Amble- 
side in charge of a patient that morning, and was 
going back on the morrow, and then to France. 
Bridget had stumbled on him in Ambleside, and find- 



'MISSING' 223 

ing he had a free evening had invited him to come 
and sup with them. And a vivid recollection of 
Nelly Cookson as a girl had induced him to accept. 
He had been present indeed at the Sarratt wedding, 
and could never forget Nelly as a bride, the jessamine 
wreath above her dark eyes, and all the exquisite 
shapeliness of her slight form, in the white childish 
dress of fine Indian muslin, which seemed to him 
the prettiest bridal garment he had ever seen. And 
now poor little soul ! 

4 You think she still hopes ? ' 

Bridget shrugged heFshoulders. 

4 She says so. But shelias put on mourning at 
last a few weeks ago.' 

{ People do turn up, you know,' said the doctor 
musing. ' There have been some wonderful stories.' 

4 They don't turn up now,' said Bridget positively 
' now that the enquiries are done properly.' 

1 Oh, the Germans are pretty casual and the 
hospital returns are far from complete, I hear. 
However the probabilities, no doubt, are all on the 
side of death.' 

4 The War Office are certain of it,' said Bridget 
with emphasis. 4 But it's no good trying to persuade 
her. I don't try.' 

4 No, why should you ? Poor thing ! Well, I'm 

off to X next week,' said the young man. 4 1 

shall keep my eyes open there, in case anything 
about him should turn up.' 

Bridget frowned slightly, and her face flushed. 



22 4 'MISSING' 

' Should you know him again, if you saw him ? ' 
she asked, abruptly. 

1 1 think so,' said the doctor with slight hesitation, 
* I remember him very well at the wedding. Tall 
and slight? not handsome exactly, but a good- 
looking gentlemanly chap? Oh yes, I remember 
him. But of course, to be alive now, if by some 
miraculous chance he were alive, and not to have 
let you know why he must have had some brain 
mischief paralysis or " 

1 He isn't alive ! ' said Bridget impatiently. { The 
War Office have no doubts whatever.' 

Howson was rather surprised at the sudden acer- 
bity of her tone. But his momentary impression 
was immediately lost in the interest roused in him 
by the emergence from the wood, in front, of Nelly 
and Cicely. He was a warm-hearted fellow, himself 
just married, and the approach of the black-veiled 
figure, which he had last seen in bridal white, touched 
him like an incident in a play. 

Nelly recognised him from a short distance, and 
went a little pale. 

* Who is that with your sister? ' asked Cicely. 

1 It is a man we knew in Manchester, Doctor 
Howson.' 

1 Did you expect him? ' 

' Oh no.' After a minute she added ' He was 
at our wedding. I haven't seen him since.' 

Cicely was sorry for her. But when the walkers 
met, Nelly greeted the young man very quietly. He 



MISSING' 



225 



himself was evidently moved. He held her hand a 
little, and gave her a quick, scrutinising look. Then 
he moved on beside her, and Cicely, in order to 
give Nelly the opportunity of talking to him for 
which she evidently wished, was forced to carry off 
Bridget, and endure her company patiently all the 
way home. 

When Nelly and the doctor arrived, following 
close on the two in front, Cicely cried out that Nelly 
must go and lie down at once till supper. She looked 
indeed a deplorable little wraith; and the doctor, 
casting, again, a professional eye on her, backed up 
Cicely. 

Nelly smiled, resisted, and finally disappeared. 

1 You'll have to take care of her,' said Howson 
to Bridget. * She looks to me as if she couldn't 
stand any strain.' 

* Well, she's not going to have any. This place 
is quiet enough! She's been talking of munition- 
work, but of course we didn't let her.' 

Cicely took the young man aside and expounded 
her brother's plan of the farm on the western side 
of Loughrigg. Howson asked questions about its 
aspect, and general comfort, giving his approval in 
the end. 

* Oh, she'll pull through,' he said 

must go"slow7 This kind of loss is harder fn hnr 
physically than death straight 

to Bridget 'to make all the en- 
quiries I can. She asked me that at once.' 



226 'MISSING' 

After supper, just as Howson was departing, Far- 
rell appeared, having driven himself over through 
the long May evening, ostensibly to take Cicely 
home, but really for the joy of an hour in Nelly's 
company. 

He sat beside her in the garden, after Howson's 
departure, reading to her, by the lingering light, the- 
poems of a great friend of his who had been killed 
at Gallipoli. Nelly was knitting, but her needles 
were often laid upon her knee, while she listened 
with all her mind, and sometimes with tears in her 
eyes, that were hidden by the softly dropping dusk. 
She said little, but what she did say came now from 
a greatly intensified inner life, and a sharpened intel- 
ligence; while all the time, the charm that belonged 
to her physical self, her voice, her movements, was at 
work on Farrell, so that he felt his hour with her 
a delight after his hard day's work. And she too 
rested in his presence, and his friendship. It was not 
possible now for her to rebuff him, to refuse his care. 
She had tried, tried honestly, as Cicely saw, to live 
Independently to * endure hardness.' And the at- 
tempt had broken down. The strange, protesting" 
feeling, too, that she was doing some wrong to 
George by accepting it was passing away. She was 
George's, she would always be his, to her dying day; 
but to live without being loved, to tear herself from 
those who wished to love her for that she 4d 
proved too weak. She knew it, and was not uncon- 
scious of a certain moral defeat; as she looked out 



'MISSING' 227 

upon all the strenuous and splendid things that 
women were doing in the war. 

Farrell and Cicely sped homeward through a 
night that was all but day. Cicely scarcely spoke; 
she was thinking of Marsworth. Farrell had still 
in his veins the sweetness of Nelly's presence. But 
there were other thoughts too in his mind, the 
natural thoughts of an Englishman at war. Once, 
over their heads, through the luminous northern sky, 
there passed an aeroplane flying south-west high 
above the fells. Was it coming from the North 
Sea, from the neighbourhood of that invincible Fleet, 
on which all hung, by which all was sustained? He 
thought of the great ships, and the men commanding 
them, as greyhounds straining in the leash. What 
touch of fate would let them loose at last? 

The Carton hospital was now full of men fresh 
from the front. The casualties were endless. A 
thousand a night often along the French front and 
yet no real advance. The far-flung battle was prac- 
tically at a stand-still. And beyond, the chaos in 
the Balkans, the Serbian debacle! No the world 
was full of lamentation, mourning and woe; and who 
could tell how Armageddon would turn ? His quick 
mind travelled through all the alternative possibili- 
ties ahead, on fire for his country. But always, after 
each digression through the problems of the war, 
thought came back to the cottage at Rydal, and 
Nelly on the lawn, her white throat emerging from 



228 'MISSING' 

the thin black dress, her hands clasped on her lap, 
her eyes turned to him as he read. 

And all the time it was just conceivable that 
Sarratt might still be discovered. At that thought, 
the summer night darkened. 



CHAPTER XI 

IN the summer of 1916, a dark and miserable 
June, all chilly showers and lowering clouds, 
followed on the short-lived joys of May. But 
all through it, still more through the early weeks of 
July, the spiritual heaven for English hearts was 
brightening. In June, two months before she was 
expected to move, Russia flung herself on the Eastern 
front of the enemy. Brussiloff's victorious advance 
drove great wedges into the German line, and the 
effect on that marvellous six months' battle, which 
we foolishly call the Siege of Verdun, was soon to 
be seen. Hard pressed they were, those heroes of 
Verdun ! how hard pressed no one in England knew 
outside the War Office and the Cabinet, till the worst 
was over, and the Crown Prince, ' with his dead 
and his shame,' had recoiled in sullen defeat from the 
prey that need fear him no more. 

Then on the first of July, the British army, after a 
bombardment the like of which had never yet been 
seen in war, leapt from its trenches on the Somme 
front, and England held her breath while her new 
Armies proved of what stuff they were made. In 
those great days ' there were no stragglers none ! ' 
said an eye-witness in amazement. The incredible 
229 



230 'MISSING* 

became everywhere the common and the achieved. 
Life was laid down as at a festival. * From your 
happy son ' wrote a boy, as a heading to his last 
letter on this earth. 

And by the end of July the sun was ablaze again 
on the English fields and harvests. Days of amazing 
beauty followed each other amid the Westmorland 
fells; with nights of moonlight on sleeping lakes, and 
murmuring becks; or nights of starlit dark, with 
that mysterious glow in the north-west which in the 
northern valleys so often links the evening with the 
dawn. 

How often through these nights Nelly Sarratt lay 
awake, in her new white room in Mountain Ash 
Farm ! the broad low window beside her open to 
the night, to that ' Venus's Looking Glass ' of Lough- 
rigg Tarn below her, and to the great heights beyond, 
now dissolving under the moon-magic, now rosy with 
dawn, and now wreathed in the floating cloud which 
crept in light and silver along the purple of the crags. 
To have been lifted to this height above valley and 
stream, had raised and strengthened her, soul and 
body, as Farrell and Hester had hoped. Her soul, 
perhaps, rather than her body; for she was still the 
frailest of creatures, without visible ill, and yet 
awakening in every quick-eyed spectator the same 
misgiving as in the Manchester doctor. But she was 
calmer, less apparently absorbed in her own grief; 
though only, perhaps, the more accessible to the 
world misery of the war. In these restless nights, 



'MISSING' 231 

her remarkable visualising power, which had only 
thriven, it seemed, upon the flagging of youth and 
health, carried her through a series of waking 
dreams, almost always concerned with the war: 
Under the stimulus of Farrell's intelligence, she 
had become a close student of. the war. She read 
much, and what she read, his living contact with men 
and affairs with that endless. stream of wounded in 
particular, which passed through the Carton hospital 
and his graphic talk illumined for her. Then in 
the night arose the train of visions; the trenches 
always the trenches; those hideous broken woods of 
the Somme front, where the blasted soil has sucked 
the best life-blood of England; those labyrinthine 
diggings and delvings in a tortured earth, made for 
the Huntings of Death ' Death that lays man at his 
length ' for panting pursuit, and breathless flight, 
and the last crashing horror of the bomb, in some 
hell-darkness at the end of all : these haunted her. 
Or she saw visions of men swinging from peak to 
peak above fathomless depths of ice and snow on the 
Italian front; climbing precipices where the foot 
holds by miracle, and where not only men but guns 
must go ; or vanishing, whole lines of them, awfully 
forgotten in the winter snows, to reappear a 
frozen and ghastly host, with the melting of the 
spring. 

And always, mingled with everything, in the tense 
night hours that slender khaki figure, tearing the 
leaf from his sketch-book, leaping over the para- 



232 'MISSING' 

dos, falling in the No Man's Land. But, by day, 
the obsession of it now often left her. 

It was impossible not to enjoy her new home. 
Farrell had taken an old Westmorland farm, with 
its white-washed porch, its small-paned windows out- 
lined in white on the grey walls, its low raftered 
rooms, and with a few washes of colour pure blue, 
white, daffodil yellow had made all bright within, 
to match the bright spaces of air and light without. 
There was some Westmorland oak, some low chairs, 
a sofa and a piano from the old Manchester house, 
some etchings and drawings, hung on the plain walls 
by Farrell himself, with the most fastidious care; 
and a few a very few things from his own best 
stores, which Hester allowed him to * house ' with 
Nelly from time to time picture, or pot, or tapestry. 
She played watch-dog steadily, not resented by Far- 
rell, and unsuspected by Nelly. Her one aim was 
that the stream of Nelly's frail life should not be 
muddied by any vile gossip ; and she achieved it. The 
few neighbours who had made acquaintance with 
1 little Mrs. Sarratt ' had, all of them been tacitly, 
nay eagerly willing, to take their cue from Hester. 
To be vouched for by Hester Martin, the * wise 
woman ' and saint of a country-side, was enough. 
It was understood that the poor little widow had 
been commended to the care of William Farrell and 
his sister, by the young husband whose gallant death 
was officially presumed by the War Office. Of 
course, Mrs. Sarratt, poor child, believed that he was 



'MISSING' 233 

still alive that was so natural! But that hope 
would die down in time. And then anything might 
happen ! 

Meanwhile, elderly husbands the sole male in- 
habitants left in the gentry houses of the district 
who possessed any legal knowledge, informed their 
wives that no one could legally presume the death 
of a vanished husband, under seven years, unless 
indeed they happen to have a Scotch domicile, in 
which case two years was enough. Seven years! 
preposterous ! in time of war, said the wives. To 
which the husbands would easily reply that, in such 
cases as Mrs. Sarratt's, the law indeed might be ' an 
ass,' but there were ways round it. Mrs. Sarratt 
might re-marry, and no one could object, or would 
object. Only if Sarratt did rise from the dead, the 
second marriage would be ipso facto null and void. 
But as Sarratt was clearly dead, what did that 
matter? 

So that the situation, though an observed one 
for how could the Farrell comings and goings, the 
Farrell courtesies and benefactions, possibly be hid? 
was watched only by friendly and discreet eyes, 
thanks always to Hester. Most people liked Wil- 
liam Farrell; even that stricter sect, who before the 
war had regarded him as a pleasure loving dilettante, 
and had been often scandalised by his careless levity 
in the matter of his duties as a landlord and county 
magnate. ' Bill Farrell ' had never indeed evicted 
or dealt hardly with any mortal tenant. He had 



234 'MISSING' 

merely neglected and ignored them ; had cared not a 
brass farthing about the rates which he or they 
paid w hy should he indeed, when he was so abomi- 
nably rich from other sources than land? nothing 
about improving their cows, or sheep or pigs; noth- 
ing about * intensive culture,' or jam or poultry, or 
any of the other fads with which the persons who 
don't farm plague the persons who do; while the 
very mention of a public meeting, or any sort of 
public duty, put him to instant flight. Yet even the 
faddists met him with pleasure, and parted from 
him with regret. He took himself ' so jolly lightly ' ; 
you couldn't expect him to take other people seri- 
ously. Meanwhile, his genial cheery manner made 
him a general favourite, and his splendid presence, 
combined with his possessions and his descent, was 
universally accepted as a kind of Cumberland asset, 
to which other counties could hardly lay claim. If he 
wanted the little widow, why certainly, let him have 
her! It was magnificent what he had done for his 
hospital; when nobody before the war had thought 
him capable of a stroke of practical work. Real 
good fellow, Farrell ! Let him go in and win. His 
devotion, and poor Nelly's beauty, only infused a 
welcome local element of romance into the ever- 
darkening scene of war. 

The first anniversary of Sarratt's disappearance 
was over. Nelly had gone through it quite alone. 
Bridget was in London, and Nelly had said to Cicely 



'MISSING' 235 

' Don't come for a few days nor Sir William 
please ! I shall be all right.' 

They obeyed her, and she spent her few days 
partly on the fells, and partly in endless knitting and 
sewing for a war-workroom recently started in her 
immediate neighbourhood. The emotion to which 
she surrendered herself would soon reduce her to a 
dull vacancy ; and then she would sit passive, not 

faj n g.. hfT"*!* " rfiinlr, alnnp In ffrf nl^ raftered 
room, or in fhe hit- nf garrfc^ putsiffo with its phloxes 
and golden rods ; her small fingej^j5^r^ing^je.Qdls ssly 

till the wave oTTeeling and memory returned upon 
her. Those few days were a kind of * retreat,' dur- 
ing which she lived absorbed in the recollections of 
her short, married life, and, above all, in which she 
tried piteously and bravely to make clear to herself 
what she believed; what sort of faith was in her for 
the present and the future. It often seemed to her that 
during the year since George's death, her mind had 
been wrenched and hammered into another shape. 
It had grown so much older, she scarcely knew it 
herself. Doubts she had never known before had 
come to her; but also, intermittently, a much keener 
faith. Oh, yes, she believed in God. She must; not 
only because George had believed in Him, but also 
because she, her very self, had been conscious, again 
and again, in the night hours, or on the mountains, 
of ineffable upliftings and communings, of flashes 
through the veil of things. And so there must be 
another world; because the God she guessed at thus, 



236 'MISSING' 

with sudden adoring insight, could not have made her 
George, only to destroy him; only to give her to him 
for a month, and then strike him from her for ever. 
The books she learnt to know through Farrell, be- 
longing to that central modern literature, which is so 
wholly sceptical that the ' great argument * itself 
has almost lost interest for those who are producing 
it, often bewildered her, but did not really affect her. 
Religion a vague, but deeply-felt religion soothed 
and sheltered her. But she did not want to talk 
about it. 

After these days were over, she emerged conscious 
of some radical change. She seemed to have been 
walking with George * on the other side/ and to have 
left him there for a while. She now really believed 
him dead, and that she had got to live her life 
without him. This first full and sincere admission of 
her loss tranquillised her. All the more reason now 
that she should turn to the dear friendships that life 
still held, should live in and for them, and follow 
where they led, through the years before her. Far- 
rell, Cicely, Hester they stood between her weak- 
ness oh how conscious, how scornfully conscious, 
she was of it! and sheer desolation. Cicely, 
4 Willy,' for somehow she and he had slipped al- 
most without knowing it into Christian names had 
become to her as brother and sister. And Hester 
too so strong! so kind! was part of her life; 
severe sometimes, but bracing. Nelly was conscious, 
indeed, occasionally, that something in Hester dis- 



'MISSING' 237 

approved something in her. ' But it would be all 
right,' she thought, wearily, * if only I were stronger.' 
Did she mean physically or morally? The girl's 
thought did not distinguish. 

' I believe you want me " hatched over again and 
hatched different " I ' she said one evening to Hester, 
as she laid her volume of * Adam Bede ' aside. 

' Do I ever say so? ' 

1 No but if you were me you wouldn't stop 
here moping!' said Nelly, with sudden passion. 
1 You'd strike out do something ! ' 

' With these hands? ' said Hester, raising one of 
them, and looking at it pitifully. ' My dear does 
Bridget feed you properly? ' 

* I don't know. I never think about it. She 
settles it.' 

* Why do you let her settle it? ' 

' She will I ' cried Nelly, sitting upright in her 
chair, her eyes bright and cheeks flushing, as though 
something in Hester's words accused her. ' I couldn't 
stop her! ' 

4 Well, but when she's away? ' 

' Then Mrs. Rowe settles it,' said Nelly, half 
laughing. ' I never enquire. What does it matter? ' 

She put down her knitting, and her wide, sad 
eyes followed the clouds as they covered the purple 
breast of the Langdales, which rose in threatening, 
thunder light, beyond the steely tarn in front. Hes- 
ter watched her anxiously. How lovely was the 
brown head, with its short curls enclosing the deli- 



238 'MISSING' 

cate oval of the face ! But Nelly's lack of grip on 
life, of any personal demand, of any healthy natural 
egotism, whether towards Bridget, or anybody else, 
was very disquieting to Hester. In view of the situ- 
ation which the older woman saw steadily approach- 
ing, how welcome would have been some signs of a 
greater fighting strength in the girl's nature ! 

But Nelly had made two friends since the migra- 
tion to the farm with whom at any rate she laughed ; 
and that, as Hester admitted, was something. 

One was a neighbouring farmer, an old man, 
with splendid eyes, under dark bushy brows, fine 
ascetic features, grizzled hair, and a habit of carry- 
ing a scythe over his shoulder which gave him the 
look of ' Old Father Time,' out for the mowing of 
men. The other was the little son of a neighbouring 
parson, an urchin of eight, who had succumbed 
to an innocent passion for the pretty lady at the 
farm. 

One radiant October afternoon, Nelly carried out 
a chair and some sketching things into the garden. 
But the scheme Farrell had suggested to her, of 
making a profession of her drawing, had not come 
to much. Whether it was the dying down of hope, 
and therewith of physical energy, or whether she had 
been brought up sharp against the limits of her small 
and graceful talent, and comparing herself with Far- 
rell, thought it no use to go on in any case, she 
had lately given it up, except as an amusement. But 



'MISSING' 239 

there are days when the humblest artist feels the 
creative stir; and on this particular afternoon there 
were colours and lights abroad on the fells, now 
dyed red with withering fern, and overtopped by 
sunny cloud, that could not be resisted. She put 
away the splints she was covering, and spread out her 
easel. 

And presently, through every bruised and tired 
sense, as she worked and worked, the ' Eternal Foun- 
tain of that Heavenly Beauty ' distilled His constant 
balm. She worked on, soothed and happy. 

In a few minutes there was a sound at the gate. 
A child looked in black tumbled hair, dark eyes, a 
plain but most engaging countenance. 

' I'm tomin in,' he announced, and without any 
more ado, came in. Nelly held out a hand and kissed 
him. 

1 You must be very good.' 

* I is good,' said the child, radiantly. 

Nelly spread a rug for him to lie on, and provided 
him with a piece of paper, some coloured chalks and 
a piece of mill board. He turned over on his front 
and plunged into drawing 

Silence till Nelly asked 

'What are you drawing, Tommy? ' 

' Haggans and Hoons,' said a dreamy voice, the 
voice of one absorbed. 

' I forget ' said Nelly gravely ' which are the 
good ones? ' 

' The Hoons are good. The Haggans are awfully 



24 o 'MISSING' 

wicked ! ' said the child, slashing away at his drawing 
with bold vindictive strokes. 

1 Are you drawing a Haggan, Tommy? ' 

I Yes.' 

He held up a monster, half griffin, half crocodile, 
for her to see, and she heartily admired it. 
'Where do the Haggans live, Tommy?' 

* In Jupe,' said the child, again drawing busily. 

* You mean Jupiter ? ' 

I 1 don't! ' said Tommy reproachfully, * I said 
Jupe, and I mean Jupe. Perhaps ' he conceded, 
courteously ' I may have got the idea from that 
other place. But it's quite different. You do believe 
it's quite different don't you ? ' 

' Certainly,' said Nelly. 

* I'm glad of that because well, because I can't 
be friends with people that say it isn't different. 
You do see that, don't you? ' 

Nelly assured him she perfectly understood, and 
then Tommy rolled over on his back, and staring at 
the sky, began to talk in mysterious tones of ' Jupe,' 
and the beings that lived in it, Haggans, and Hoons, 
lions and bears, and white mice. His voice grew 
dreamier and dreamier. Nelly thought he was 
asleep, and she suddenly found herself looking at the 
little figure on the grass with a passionate hunger. 
If such a living creature belonged to her to call her 
its very own to cling to her with its dear chubby 
hands ! 

She bent forward, her eyes wet, above the uncon- 



'MISSING' 241 

scious Tommy. But a step on the road startled her, 
and raising her head she saw * Old Father Time,' 
with scythe on shoulder, leaning on the little gate 
which led from the strip of garden to the road, and 
looking at her with the expression which implied a 
sarcastic view of things in general, and especially of 
' gentlefolk.' But he was favourably inclined to 
Mrs. Sarratt, and when Nelly invited him in, he 
obeyed her, and grounding his scythe, as though it 
had been a gun, he stood leaning upon it, indulgently 
listening while she congratulated him on a straage 
incident which, as she knew from Hester, had lately 
occurred to him. 

A fortnight before, the old man had received a 
letter from the captain of his son's company in 
France sympathetically announcing to him the death 
in hospital of his eldest son, from severe wounds 
received in a raid, and assuring him he might feel 
complete confidence * that everything that could be 
done for your poor boy has been done.' 

The news had brought woe to the cottage where 
the old man and his wife liv'e'll alune, MIILC the fledg- 
ing of their sturdy brood, under a spur otj^ojagtogg- 
The wife, being now a feeble body, had taken to her 
bed under the shock of gnef ; the old man had gone 
to his work as usual, * nobbut a bit queerer in his 
wits,' according to the farmer who employed him. 
Then after three days came a hurried letter of 
apology from the captain, and a letter from the 
chaplain, to say there had been_a__mjas-fieprpfable 



242 'MISSING' 

mistake, and ' your son, I am glad to say, was only 
slightly wounded, and is doing well ! ' 

Under so much contradictory emdtlon, old Back- 
house's balance had wavered a good deal. He re- 
ceived Nelly's remarks with a furtive smile, as 
though he were only waiting for her to have done, 
and when they ceased, he drew a letter slowly from 
his pocket. 

* D'ye see that, Mum ? ' 

Nelly nodded. 

Tse juist gotten it from t' Post Office. They 
woant gie ye noothin' till it's forced oot on 'em. 
But I goa regular, an to-day owd Jacob 'at's him 
as keps t' Post Office handed it ower. It's from 
Donald, sure enoof.' 

He held it up triumphantly. Nelly's heart leapt 
and sank. How often in the first_montlis_-Qf her 
grief had she seen ^irTVisions that blessed sym- 
bolic letter held up by soyne m'ni^p*-'"g fpnH ! 
only to fall from the ecstasy of the dream into 
blacker depths, of pain. 

' Oh, Mr. Backhouse, I'm so glad! ' was all she 
could find to say. But her sweet trembling face 
spoke for her. After a pause, she added ' Does he 
write with his own hand? ' 

4 You mun see for yorselV He held it out to her. 
She looked at it mystified. 

' But it's not opened ! ' 

1 1 hadna juist me spectacles,' said Father Time, 
cautiously. * Mebbee yo'll read it to me.' 



'MISSING' 243 

* But it's to his mother ! ' cried Nelly. * I can't 
open your wife's letter ! ' 

1 You needn't trooble aboot that. You read it, 
Mum. There'll be noothin' in it.' 

He made her read it. There was nothing in it. It 
was just a nice letter from a good boy, saying that he 
had been knocked over in * a bit of a scrap,' but was 
nearly all right, and hoped his father and mother 
were well, ' as it leaves me at present.' But when 
it was done, Father Time took off his hat, bent his 
grey head, and solemnly thanked his God, in broad 
Westmorland. Nelly's eyes swam, as she too bowed 
the head, thinking of another who would never come 
back; and Tommy, thumb in mouth, leant against 
her, listening attentively. 

At the end of the thanksgiving however, Back- 
house raised his head briskly. 

' Not that I iver believed that foolish yoong mon 
as wrote me that Dick wor dead,' he said, con- 
temptuously. ' Bit it's as weel to git things clear.' 

Nelly heartily agreed, adding 

* I may be going to London next week, Mr. Back- 
house. You say your son will be in the London 
Hospital. Shall I go and see him? ' 

Backhouse looked at her cautiously. 

* I doan't know, Mum. His moother will be 
goin', likely.' 

* Oh, I don't want to intrude, Mr. Backhouse. 
But if she doesn't go? ' 

* Well, Mum ; I will say you've a pleasant coonte- 



244 'MISSING' 

nance, though yo're not juist sich a thrivin' body as 
a'd like to see yer. But theer's mony people as du 
more harm nor good by goin' to sit wi' sick foak.' 

Nelly meekly admitted it; and then she suggested 
that she might be the bearer of anything Mrs. Back- 
house would like to send her son clothes, for in- 
stance ? The old man thawed rapidly, and the three, 
Nelly, Tommy, and Father Time, were soon sin- 
cerely enjoying each other's society, when a woman 
in a grey tweed costume, and black sailor hat, arrived 
at the top of a little hill in the road outside the gar- 
den, from which the farm and its surroundings could 
be seen. 

At the sight of the group in front of the farm, 
she came to an abrupt pause, and hidden from them 
by a projecting corner of wall she surveyed the scene 
Nelly, with Tommy on her knee, and the old 
labourer who had just shouldered his scythe again, 
and was about to go on his way. 

It was Bridget Cookson, who had been to Kendal 
for the day, and had walked over from Grasmere, 
where the char-a-banc, alias the ' Yellow Peril,' had 
deposited her. She had passed the Post Office on her 
way, and had brought thence a letter which she held 
in her hand. Her face was pale and excited. She 
stood thinking; her eyes on Nelly, her lips moving 
as though she were rehearsing some speech or argu- 
ment. 

Then when she had watched old Backkhouse make 
his farewell, and turn towards the gate, she hastily 



'MISSING' 245 

opened a black silk bag hanging from her wrist, 
and thrust the letter into it. 

After which she walked on, meeting the old man 
in the lane, and run into by Tommy, who, head fore- 
most, was rushing home to shew his glorious Haggan 
to his ' mummy.' 

Nelly's face at sight of her sister stiffened insen- 
sibly. 

'Aren't you very tired, Bridget? Have you 
walked all the way? Yes, you do look tired ! Have 
you had tea ? ' 

* Yes, at Windermere.' 

Bridget cleared the chair on which Nelly had 
placed her paint-box, and sat down. She was silent 
a little and then said abruptly 

' It's a horrid bore, I shall have to go to London 
again.' 

1 Again ? ' Nelly's look of surprise was natural. 
Bridget had returned from another long stay in the 
Bloomsbury boarding-house early in October, and it 
was now only the middle of the month. But Bridget's 
doings were always a great mystery to Nelly. She 
was translating something from the Spanish that 
was all Nelly knew and also, that when an offer 
had been made to her through a friend, of some 
translating work for the Foreign Office, she had 
angrily refused it. She would not, she said, be a 
slave to any public office. 

' Won't it be awfully expensive? ' said Nelly after 
a pause, as Bridget did not answer. The younger 



246 'MISSING' 

sister was putting her painting things away, and 
making ready to go in. For though the day had 
been wonderfully warm for October, the sun had 
just set over Bowfell, and the air had grown sud- 
denly chilly. 

'Well, I can't help it,' said Bridget, rather 
roughly. ' I shall have to go.' 

Something in her voice made Nelly look at her. 

' I say you are tired ! Come in and lie down a 
little. That walk from Grasmere's too much for 
you! ' 

Bridget submitted with most unusual docility. 

The sisters entered the house together. 

' I'll go upstairs for a little,' said Bridget. ' I 
shall be all right by supper.' Then, as she slowly 
mounted the stairs, a rather gaunt and dragged figure 
in her dress of grey alpaca, she turned to say 

' I met Sir William on the road just now. He 
passed me in the car, and waved his hand. He called 
out something I couldn't hear it.' 

' Perhaps to say he would come to supper,' said 
Nelly, her face brightening. ' I'll go and see what 
there is.' 

Bridget went upstairs. Her small raftered room 
was invaded by the last stormy light of the autumn 
evening. The open casement window admitted a 
cold wind. Bridget shut it, with a shiver. But in- 
stead of lying down, she took a chair by the window, 
absently removed her hat, and sat there thinking. 
The coppery light from the west illumined her face 



'MISSING' 247 

with its strong discontented lines, and her hands, 
which were large, but white and shapely a source 
indeed of personal pride to their owner. 

Presently, in the midst of her reverie, she heard a 
step outside, and saw Sir William Farrell approach- 
ing the gate. Nelly, wrapped in a white shawl, was 
still strolling about the garden, and Bridget watched 
their meeting Nelly's soft and smiling welcome, and 
Farrell's eagerness, his evident joy in finding her 
alone. 

' And she just wilfully blinds herself ! ' thought 
Bridget contemptuously * talks about his being a 
brother to her, and that sort of nonsense. He's in 
love with her ! of course he's in love with her. And 
as for Nelly she's not in love with him. But she's 
getting used to him; she depends on him. When 
he's not there she misses him. She's awfully glad to 
see him when he comes. Perhaps, it'll take a month 
or two. I give it a month or two perhaps six 
months perhaps a year. And then she'll marry 
him and ' 

Here her thoughts became rather more vague and 
confused. They were compounded of a fierce impa- 
tience with the war, and of certain urgent wishes 
and ambitions, which had taken possession of a 
strong and unscrupulous character. She wanted to 
travel. She wanted to see the world, and not to be 
bothered by having to think of money. Contact with 
very rich people, like the Farrells, and the constant 
spectacle of what an added range and power is given 



248 'MISSING' 

to the human will by money, had turned the dull 
discontent of her youth into an active fever of desire. 
She had no illusions about herself at all. She was 
already a plain and unattractive old maid. Nobody 
would want to marry her; and she did not want to 
marry anybody. But she wanted to do things and to 
see things, when the hateful war was over. She was 
full of curiosities about life and the world, that were 
rather masculine than feminine. Her education, 
though it was still patchy and shallow, had been 
advancing since Nelly's marriage, and her intelli- 
gence was hungry. The satisfaction of it seemed 
too to promise her the only real pleasures to which 
she could look forward in life. On the wall of her 
bedroom were hanging photographs of Rome, 
Athens, the East. She dreamt of a wandering exist- 
ence ; she felt that she would be insatiable of move- 
ment, of experience, if the chance were given her. 

But how could one travel, or buy books, or make 
new acquaintances, without money? something 
more at any rate than the pittance on which she and 
Nelly subsisted. 

What was it Sir William was supposed to have, 
by way of income? thirty thousand a year? Well, 
he wouldn't always be spending it on his hospital, 
and War income tax, and all the other horrible 
burdens of the time. If Nelly married him, she 
would have an ample margin to play with ; and to do 
Nelly justice, she was always open-handed, always 
ready to give away. She would hand over her own 



'MISSING' 249 

small portion to her sister, and add something to it. 
With six or seven hundred a year, Bridget would be 
mistress of her own fate, and of the future. Often, 
lately, in waking moments of the night, she had felt 
a sudden glow of exultation, thinking what she could 
do with such a sum. The world seemed to open 
out on all sides offering her new excitements, new 
paths to tread in. She wanted no companion, to 
hamper her with differing tastes and wishes. She 
would be quite sufficient to herself. 

The garden outside grew dark. She heard Far- 
rell say * It's too cold for you you must come in,' 
and she watched Nelly enter the house in front of 
him turning her head back to answer something he 
said to her. Even through the dusk Bridget was 
conscious of her sister's beauty. She did not envy 
it in the least. It was Nelly's capital Nelly's oppor- 
tunity. Let her use it for them both. Bridget would 
be well satisfied to gather up the crumbs from her 
rich sister's table. 

Then from the dream, she came back with chill 
and desperation to reality. The letter in her pocket 
the journey before her she pondered alterna- 
tives. What was she to do in this case or in that? 
Everything might be at stake everything was at 
stake her life and Nelly's 

The voices from the parlour below came up to 
her. She heard the crackling of a newly lighted fire 
Farrell reading aloud and Nelly's gentle laugh- 
ter. She pictured the scene; the two on either side 



250 'MISSING' 

of the fire, with Nelly's mourning, her plain widow's 
dress, as the symbol in Nelly's eyes of what 
divided her from Farrell, or any other suitor, and 
made it possible to be his friend without fear. 
Bridget knew that Nelly so regarded it. But that of 
course was just Nelly's foolish way of looking at 
things. It was only a question of time. 

And meanwhile the widow's dress had quite other 
meanings for Bridget. She pondered long in the 
dark, till the supper bell rang. 

At supper, her silence embarrassed and infected 
her companions, and Farrell, finding it impossible to 
get another tete-a-tete with Nelly, took his leave 
early. He must be up almost with the dawn so as 
to get to Carton by nine o'clock. 

Out of a stormy heaven the moon was breaking 
as he walked back to his cottage. The solitude of 
the mountain ways, the freshness of the rain-washed 
air, and the sweetness of his hour with Nelly, after 
the bustle of the week, the arrivals and departures, 
the endless business, of a great hospital: he was 
conscious of them all, intensely conscious, as parts 
of a single, delightful whole to which he had looked 
forward for days. And yet he was restless and 
far from happy. He wandered about the mountain 
roads for a long time watching the moon as it rose 
above the sharp steep of Loughrigg and sent long 
streamers of light down the Elterwater valley, and 
up the great knees of the Pikes. The owls hooted in 



'MISSING' 251 

the oak-woods, and the sound of water the Brathay 
rushing over the Skelwith rocks, and all the little 
becks in fell and field, near and far murmured 
through the night air, and made earth-music to the 
fells. Farrell had much of the poet in him; and the 
mountains and their life were dear to him. But he 
was rapidly passing into the stage when a man over- 
mastered by his personal desires is no longer open 
to the soothing of nature. He had recently had a 
long and confidential talk with his lawyer at Carlisle, 
who was also his friend, and had informed himself 
minutely about the state of the law. Seven years ! 
unless, of her own free will, she took the infinitesimal 
risk of marriage before the period was up. 

But he despaired of her doing any such thing. 
He recognised fully that the intimacy she allowed 
him, her sweet openness and confidingness, were all 
conditioned by what she regarded as the fixed points 
in her life; by her widowhood, legal and spiritual, 
and by her tacit reliance on his recognition of the 
fact that she was set apart, bound as other widows 
were not bound, protected by the very mystery of 
Sarratt's fate, from any thought of re-marriage. 

And he! all the time the strength of a man's 
maturest passion was mounting in his veins. And 
with it a foreboding coming he knew not whence 
like the sudden shadow that, as he looked, blotted 
out the moonlight on the shining bends and loops 
of the Brathay, where it wandered through the Elter- 
water fields. 



CHAPTER XII 

BRIDGET COOKSON slowly signed her name 
to the letter she had been writing in the 
drawing-room of the boarding-house where 
she was accustomed to stay during her visits to town. 
Then she read the letter through 

4 1 can't get back till the middle or end of next 
week at least. There's been a great deal to do, of 
one kind or another. And I'm going down to Wok- 
ing to-morrow to spend the week-end with a girl I 
met here who's knocked up in munition-work. Don't 
expect me till you see me. But I daresay I shan't 
be later than Friday.' 

Bridget Cookson had never yet arrived at telling 
falsehoods for the mere pleasure of it. On the 
whole she preferred not to tell them. But she was 
well aware that her letter to Nelly contained a good 
many, both expressed and implied. 

Well, that couldn't be helped. She put up her 
letter, and then proceeded to look carefully through 
the contents of her handbag. Yes, her passport was 
all right, and her purse with its supply of notes. 
Also the letter that she was to present to the Base 
Commandant, or the Red Cross representative at 
the port of landing. The latter had been left open 
for her to read. It was signed * Ernest Howson, 
252 



'MISSING' 253 

M.D.,' and asked that Miss Bridget Cookson might 
be sent forward to No. 102, General Hospital, X 
Camp, France, as quickly as possible. 

There was also another letter addressed to herself 
in the same handwriting. She opened it and glanced 
through it 

' DEAR Miss COOKSON, I think I have made 
everything as easy for you as I can on this side. 
You won't have any difficulty. I'm awfully glad 
you're coming. I myself am much puzzled, and don't 
know what to think. Anyway I am quite clear that 
my right course was to communicate with you first. 
Everything will depend on what you say.' 

The following afternoon, Bridget found herself, 
with a large party of V.A.D.'s, and other persons 
connected with the Red Cross, on board a Channel 
steamer. The day was grey and cold, and Bridget 
having tied on her life-belt, and wrapped herself 
in her thickest cloak, found a seat in the shelter of 
the deck cabins whence the choppy sea, the destroyer 
hovering round them, and presently the coast of 
France were visible. A secret excitement filled her. 
What was she going to see? and what was she going 
to do? All round her too were the suggestions of 
war, commonplace and familiar by now to half the 
nation, but not to Bridget who had done her best 
to forget the war. The steamer deck was crowded 
with officers returning from leave who were walking 
up and down, all of them in life-belts, chatting and 
smoking. All eyes were watchful of the sea, and 



254 'MISSING* 

the destroyer; and the latest submarine gossip passed 
from mouth to mouth. The V.A.D.'s with a few 
army nurses, kept each other company on the stern 
deck. The mild sea gave no one any excuse for 
discomfort, and the pleasant-faced rosy girls in their 
becoming uniforms, laughed and gossiped with each 
other, though not without a good many side glances 
towards the khaki figures pacing the deck, many 
of them specimens of English youth at its best. 

Bridget however took little notice of them. She 
was becoming more and more absorbed in her own 
problem. She had not in truth made up her mind 
how to deal with it, and she admitted reluctantly 
that she would have to be guided by circumstance. 
Midway across, when the French coast and its light- 
houses were well in view, she took out the same letter 
which she had received two days before at the Gras- 
mere post-office, and again read it through. 

" X Camp, 1 02, General Hospital. 

* DEAR Miss COOKSON, I am writing to you, in 
the first instance instead of to Mrs. Sarratt, because 
I have a vivid remembrance of what seemed to me 
your sister's frail physical state, when I saw you 
last May at Rydal. I hope she is much stronger, 
but I don't want to risk what, if it ended in disap- 
pointment, might only be a terrible strain upon her 
to no purpose so I am preparing the way by writing 
to you. 

* The fact is I want you to come over to France 



'MISSING' 255 

at once. Can you get away, without alarming your 
sister, or letting her, really, know anything about 
it? It is the merest, barest chance, but I think there 
is just a chance, that a man who is now in hospital 
here may be poor George Sarratt only don't build 
upon it yet, please. The case was sent on here from 
one of the hospitals near the Belgian frontier about 
a month ago, in order that a famous nerve-specialist, 
who has joined us here for a time, might give his 
opinion on it. It is a most extraordinary story. I 
understand from the surgeon who wrote to our Com- 
mandant, that one night, about three months ago, 
two men, in German uniforms, were observed from 
the British front-line trench, creeping over the No 
Man's Land lying between the lines at a point some- 
where east of Dixmude. One man, who threw up 
his hands, was dragging the other, who seemed 
wounded. It was thought that they were deserters, 
and a couple of men were sent out to bring them in. 
Just as they were being helped into our trench, how- 
ever, one of them was hit by an enemy sniper and 
mortally wounded. Then it was discovered that they 
were not Germans at all. The man who had been 
hit said a few incoherent things about his wife and 
children in the Walloon patois as he lay in the trench, 
and trying to point to his companion, uttered the one 
word " Anglais " that, everyone swears to and 
died. No papers were found on either of them, and 
when the other man was questioned, he merely shook 
his head, with a vacant look. Various tests were ap- 



256 'MISSING' 

plied to him, but it was soon clear, both that he was 
dumb and deaf from nerve shock, probably 
and that he was in a terrible physical state. He had 
been severely wounded apparently many months 
before in the shoulder and thigh. The wounds had 
evidently been shockingly neglected, and were still 
septic. The surgeon who examined him thought that 
what with exposure, lack of food, and his injuries, 
it was hardly probable he would live more than a 
few weeks. However, he has lingered till now, and 
the specialist I spoke of has just seen him. 

' As to identification marks there were none. But 
you'll hear all about that when you come. All I can 
say is that, as soon as they got the man into hospital, 
the nurses and surgeons became convinced that he 
was English, and that in addition to his wounds, it 
was a case of severe shell-shock acute and long- 
continued neurasthenia properly speaking, loss of 
memory, and all the rest of it. 

* Of course the chances of this poor fellow being 
George Sarratt are infinitesimal I must warn you as 
to that. How account for the interval between Sep- 
tember 1915 and June 1916 for his dress, his 
companion for their getting through the German 
lines? 

* However, directly I set eyes on this man, which 
was the week after I arrived here, I began to feel 
puzzled about him. He reminded me of someone 
but of whom I couldn't remember. Then one after- 
noon it suddenly flashed upon me and for the mo- 



'MISSING' 257 

ment I felt almost sure that I was looking at George 
Sarratt. Then, of course, I began to doubt again. 
I have tried under the advice of the specialist I 
spoke of all kinds of devices for getting into some 
kind of communication with him. Sometimes the 
veil between him and those about him seems to thin 
a little, and one makes attempts hypnotism, sug- 
gestion, and so forth. But so far, quite in vain. He 
has, however, one peculiarity which I may mention. 
His hands are long and rather powerful. But the 
little fingers are both crooked markedly so. I won- 
der if you ever noticed Sarratt's hands? However, 
I won't write more now. You will understand, I am 
sure, that I shouldn't urge you to come, unless I 
thought it seriously worth your while. On the other 
hand, I cannot bear to excite hopes which may 
which probably will come to nothing. All I can 
feel certain of is that it is my duty to write, and I 
expect that you will feel that it is your duty to come. 
' I send you the address of a man at the War 
Office high up in the R.A.M.C. to whom I have 
already written. He will, I am sure, do all he can 
to help you get out quickly. Whoever he is, the poor 
fellow here is very ill.' 

The steamer glided up the dock of the French 
harbour. The dusk had fallen, but Bridget was con- 
scious of a misty town dimly sprinkled with lights, 
and crowned with a domed church; of chalk downs, 
white and ghostly, to right and left; and close by, 



258 'MISSING' 

of quays crowded with soldiers, motors, and offi- 
cials. Carrying her small suit-case, she emerged 
upon the quay, and almost immediately was accosted 
by the official of the Red Cross who had been told off 
to look after her. 

* Let me carry your suit-case. There is a motor 

here, which will take you to X . There will be 

two nurses going with you.' 

Up the long hill leading southwards out of the 
town, sped the motor, stopping once to show its pass 
to the sentries khaki and grey, on either side of 
the road, and so on into the open country, where an 
autumn mist lay over the uplands, beneath a faintly 
star-lit sky. Soon it was quite dark. Bridget listened 
vaguely to the half-whispered talk of the nurses 
opposite, who were young probationers going back 
to work after a holiday, full of spirits and merry 
gossip about * Matron ' and ' Sister,' and their fa- 
vourite surgeons. Bridget was quite silent. Every- 
thing was strange and dreamlike. Yet she was 
sharply conscious that she was nearing perhaps 
some great experience, some act some decision 
which she would have to make for herself, with no 
one to advise her. Well, she had never been a great 
hand at asking advice. People must decide things 
for themselves. 

She wondered whether they would let her see * the 
man ' that same night. Hardly unless he were 
worse in danger. Otherwise, they would be sure 
to think it better for her to see him first in day- 



'MISSING' 259 

light. She too would be glad to have a night's rest 
before the interview. She had a curiously bruised 
and battered feeling, as of someone who had been 
going through an evil experience. 

Pale stretches of what seemed like water to the 
right, and across it a lighthouse. And now to the 
left, a sudden spectacle of lines of light in a great 
semicircle radiating up the side of a hill. 

The nurses exclaimed 

' There's the Camp ! Isn't it pretty at night? ' 

The officer sitting in front beside the driver turned 
to ask 

* Where shall I put you down?' 

* Number ' said both the maidens in concert. 
The elderly major in khaki who in peace-time was 
the leading doctor of a Shropshire country town 
could not help smiling at the two lassies, and their 
bright looks. 

' You don't seem particularly sorry to come back! ' 
he said. 

' Oh, we're tired of holidays,' said the taller of the 
two, with a laugh. * People at home think they're so 
busy, and ' 

' You think they're doing nothing? ' 

1 Well, it don't seem much, when you've been 
out here ! ' said the girl more gravely ' and when 
you know what there is to do ! ' 

* Aye, aye,' said the man in front. ' We could 
do with hundreds more of your sort. Hope you 
preached to your friends.' 



2 6o 'MISSING' 

4 We did ! ' said both, each with the same young 
steady voice. 

4 Here we are Stop, please.' 

For the motor Had turned aside to climb the hill 
into the semicircle. On all sides now were rows of 
low buildings hospital huts hospital marquees 
stores canteens. Close to the motor, as it came to 
a stand-still, the door of a great marquee stood open, 
and Bridget could see within, a lighted hospital 
ward, with rows of beds, men in scarlet bed-jackets, 
sitting or lying on them flowers nurses moving 
about. The scene was like some bright and delicate 
illumination on the dark. 

* I shall have to take you a bit further on,' said 
the major to Bridget, as the two young nurses waved 
farewell. * We've got a room in the hotel for you. 
And Dr. Howson will come for you in the morning. 
He thought that would be more satisfactory both 
for you and the patient than that you should go to 
the hospital to-night.' 

Bridget acquiesced, with a strong sense of relief. 
And presently the camp and its lights were all left 
behind again, and the motor was rushing on, first 
through a dark town, and then through woods 
pine woods as far as the faint remaining light en- 
abled her to see, till dim shapes of houses, and 
scattered lamps began again to appear, and the 
motor drew up. 

1 Well, you'll find a bed here, and some food,' 
said the major as he handed her out. * Can't prom- 



'MISSING' 261 

ise much. It's a funny little place, but they don't 
look after you badly.' 

They entered one of the small seaside hotels of 
the cheaper sort which abound in French watering- 
places, where the walls of the tiny rooms seem to be 
made of brown paper, and everyone is living in their 
neighbour's pocket. But a pleasant young woman 
came forward to take Bridget's bag. 

* Mademoiselle Cook Cookson ? ' she said in- 
terrogatively. ' I have a letter for Mademoiselle. 
Du medecin,' she added, addressing the major. 

'Ah?' That gentleman put down Bridget's 
bag in the little hall, and stood attentive. Bridget 
opened the letter a very few words and read it 
with an exclamation. 

' DEAR Miss COOKSON, I am awfully sorry not 
to meet you to-night, and at the hospital to-morrow. 
But I am sent for to Bailleul. My only brother 
has been terribly wounded they think fatally in a 
bombing attack last night. I am going up at once 
there is no help for it. One of my colleagues, Dr. 
Vincent, will take you to the hospital and will tell me 
your opinion. In haste. Yours sincerely, 

4 ERNEST HOWSON.' 

1 H'm, a great pity!' said the major, as she 
handed the note to him. ' Howson has taken a tre- 
mendous interest in the case. But Vincent is next 
best. Not the same thing perhaps but still Of 



262 'MISSING' 

course the whole medical staff here has been inter- 
ested in it. It has some extraordinary features. You 

I thinlr hflYf- had q hrnthpr-i'n-lmpp " missing " for 

some time ? ' 

He had piloted her into the bare salle a manger, 
where two young officers, with a party of newly- 
arrived V.A.D.'s were having dinner, and where 
through an open window came in the dull sound of 
waves breaking on a sandy shore. 

* My brother-in-law has been missing since the bat- 
tle of Loos,' said Bridget ' more than a year. We 
none of us believe that he can be alive. But of course 
when Dr. Howson wrote to me, I came at once.' 

'Has he a wife?' 

4 Yes, but she is very delicate. That is why Dr. 
Howson wrote to me. If there were any chance of 
course we must send for her. But I shall know I 
shall know at once.' 

* I suppose you will yes, I suppose you will,' 
mused the major. ' Though of course a man is ter- 
ribly aged by such an experience. He's English 
that we're certain of. He often seems to understand 
half understand a written phrase or word in 
English. And he is certainly a man of refinement. 
All his personal ways all that is instinctive and 
automatic the subliminal consciousness, so to speak 
seems to be that of a gentleman. But it is impos- 
sible to get any response out of him, for anything 
connected with the war. And yet we doubt whether 
there is any actual brain lesion. So far it seems to 



'MISSING' 263 

be severe functional disturbance which is neuras- 
thenia aggravated by his wounds and general state. 
But the condition is getting worse steadily. It is 
very sad, and very touching. However, you will get 
it all out of Vincent. You must have some dinner 
first. I wish you a good-night.' 

And the good man, so stout and broad-shouldered 
that he seemed to be bursting out of his khaki, hur- 
ried away. The lady seemed to him curiously hard 
and silent ' a forbidding sort of party.' But then 
he himself was a person of sentiment, expressing all 
the expected feelings in the right places, and with 
perfect sincerity. 

Bridget took her modest dinner, and then sat by 
the window, looking out over a lonely expanse of 
sand, towards a moonlit sea. To right and left were 
patches of pine wood, and odd little seaside villas, 
with fantastic turrets and balconies. A few figures 
passed nurses in white head dresses, and men in 
khaki. Bridget understood after talking to the little 
patronne, that the name of the place was Paris a la 
Mer, that there was a famous golf course near, and 
that large building, with a painted front to the right, 
was once the Casino, and now a hospital for officers. 

It was all like a stage scene, the sea, the queer 
little houses, the moonlight, the passing figures. 
Only the lights were so few and dim, and there was 
no music. 

' Miss Cookson?' 

Bridget turned, to see a tall young surgeon in 



264 'MISSING' 

khaki, tired, pale and dusty, who looked at her with 
a frown of worry, a man evidently over-driven, and 
with hardly any mind to give to this extra task that 
had been put upon him. 

' I'm sorry to be late but we've had an awful rush 
to-day,' he said, as he perfunctorily shook hands. 
* There was some big fighting on the Somme, the 
night before last, and the casualty trains have been 
coming in all day. I'm only able to get away for five 
minutes. 

* Well now, Miss Cookson ' he sat down oppo- 
site her, and tried to get his thoughts into business 
shape ' first let me tell you it's a great misfortune 
for you that Howson's had to go off. I know some- 
thing about the case but not nearly as much as he 
knows. First of all how old was your brother-in- 
law?' 

' About twenty-seven I don't know precisely.' 

* H'm. Well of course this man looks much older 
than that but the question is what's he been 
through? Was Lieutenant Sarratt fair or dark? ' 

4 Rather dark. He had brown hair.' 
'Eyes?' 

* I can't remember precisely,' said Bridget, after a 
moment. * I don't notice the colour of people's eyes. 
But I'm sure they were some kind of brown.' 

' This man's are a greenish grey. Can you recol- 
lect anything peculiar about Lieutenant Sarratt's 
hands?' 

Again Bridget paused for a second or two, and 



'MISSING' 265 

then said ' I can't remember anything at all pecul- 
iar about them.' 

The surgeon looked at her closely, and was struck 
with the wooden irresponsiveness of the face, which 
was however rather handsome, he thought, than 
otherwise. No doubt, she was anxious to speak de- 
liberately, when so much might depend on her evi- 
dence and her opinion. But he had never seen any 
countenance more difficult to read. 

* Perhaps you're not a close observer of such 
things ? ' 

* No, I don't think I am.' 

' H'm that's rather a pity. A great deal may 
turn on them, in this case.' 

Then the face before him woke up a little. 

* But I am quite sure I should know my brother- 
in-law again, under any circumstances,' said Bridget, 
with emphasis. 

'Ah, don't be so sure! Privation and illness 
change people terribly. And this poor fellow has 
suffered!' he shrugged his shoulders expressively. 
'Well, you will see him to-morrow. There is of 
course no external evidence to help us whatever. 
The unlucky accident that the Englishman's com- 
panion who was clearly a Belgian peasant, disguised 
of that there is no doubt was shot through the 
lungs at the very moment that the two men reached 
the British line, has wiped out all possible means of 
identification unless, of course, the man himself can 
be recognised by someone who knew him. We have 



266 'MISSING' 

had at least a dozen parties relations of " missing " 
men much more recent cases over here already 
to no purpose. There is really no clue, unless ' 
the speaker rose with a tired smile * unless you can 
supply one, when you see him. But I am sorry about 
the fingers. That has always seemed to me a pos- 
sible clue. To-morrow then, at eleven?' 

Bridget interrupted. 

* It is surely most unlikely that my brother-in-law 
could have survived all this time? If he had been 
a prisoner, we should have heard of him, long ago. 
Where could he have been? ' 

The young man shrugged his shoulders. 

'There have been a few cases, you know of 
escaped prisoners evading capture for a long time 
and finally crossing the line. But of course it is 
very unlikely most unlikely. Well, to-morrow?' 
He bowed and departed. 

Bridget made her way to her small carpetless 
room, and sat for long with a shawl round her at 
the open window. She could imagine the farm in 
this moonlight. It was Saturday. Very likely both 
Cicely and Sir William were at the cottage. She 
seemed to see Nelly, with the white shawl over her 
dark head, saying good-night to them at the farm- 
gate. That meant that it was all going forward. 
Some day, and soon, Nelly would discover that 
Farrell was necessary to her that she couldn't do 
without him just as she had never been able in 
practical ways to do without her sister. 



'MISSING' 267 

No, there was nothing in the way of Nelly's great 
future, and the free development of her Bridget's 
own life, but this sudden and most unwelcome 
stroke of fate. If she had to send for Nelly sup- 
posing it really were Sarratt and then if he died 
Nelly might never get over it. 

It might simply kill her why not? All the 
world knew that she was a weakling. And if it 
didn't kill her, it would make it infinitely less likely 
that she would marry Farrell in any reasonable 
time. Nelly was not like other people. She was all 
feelings. Actually to see George die and in the 
state that these doctors described would rack and 
torture her. She would never be the same again. 
The first shock was bad enough; this might be far 
worse. Bridget's selfishness, in truth, counted on 
the same fact as Farrell's tenderness. ' After all, 
what people don't see, they can't feel ' to quite the 
same degree. But if Nelly, being Nelly, had seen the 
piteous thing, she would turn against Farrell, and 
think it loyalty to George to send her rich suitor 
about his business. Bridget felt that she could ex- 
actly foretell the course of things. A squalid and 
melancholy veil dropped over the future. Poverty, 
struggle, ill-health for Nelly poverty, and the starv- 
ing of all natural desires and ambitions for herself 
that was all there was to look forward to, if the Far- 
rells were alienated, and the marriage thwarted. 

A fierce revolt shook the woman by the window. 
She sat on there till the moon dropped into the sea, 



268 'MISSING' 

and everything was still in the little echoing hotel. 
And then though she went to bed she could not 
sleep. 

After her coffee and roll in the little salle a 
manger, which with its bare boards and little rags of 
curtains was only meant for summer guests, and was 
now, on this first of November, nippingly cold, 
Bridget wandered a little on the shore watching the 
white dust of the foam as a chill west wind skimmed 
it from the incoming waves, then packed her bag, 
and waited restlessly for Dr. Vincent. She under- 
stood she was to be allowed, if she wished, two visits 
in the hospital, so as to give her an opportunity of 
watching the patient she was going to see, without 
undue hurry, and would then be motored back to 

D in time for the night boat. She was bracing 

herself therefore to an experience the details of which 
she only dimly foresaw, but which must in any case 
be excessively disagreeable. What exactly she was 
going to do or say, she didn't know. How could 
she, till the new fact was before her? 

Punctually on the stroke of eleven, a motor ar- 
rived in charge of an army driver, and Bridget set 
out. They were to pick up Vincent in the town of 

X itself and run on to the Camp. The sun was 

out by this time, and all the seaside village, with its 
gimcrack hotels and villas flung pell-mell upon the 
sand, and among the pines, was sparkling under it. 
So were the withered woods, where the dead leaves 



'MISSING' 269 

were flying before the wind, the old town where Na- 
poleon gathered his legions for the attack on Eng- 
land, and the wide sandy slopes beyond it, where the 
pine woods had perished to make room for the 
Camp. The car stopped presently on the edge of 
the town. To the left spread a river estuary, with a 
spit of land beyond, and lighthouses upon it, sharp 
against a pale blue sky. Every shade of pale yellow, 
of lilac and pearl, sparkled in the distance, in the 
scudding water, the fast flying westerly clouds, and 
the sandy inlets among the still surviving pines. 

' You're punctuality itself,' said a man emerging 
from a building before which a sentry was pacing 
* Now we shall be there directly.' 

The building, so Bridget was informed, housed 
the Headquarters of the Base, and from it the busi- 
ness of the great Camp, whether on its military or 
its hospital side, was mainly carried on. And as 
they drove towards the Camp her companion, with < 
the natural pride of the Englishman in his job, told 
the marvellous tale of the two preceding years how 
the vast hospital city had been reared, and organised 
the military camp too the convalescent camp 
the transports and the feeding. 

* The Boche thought they were the only organ- 
isers in the world! We've taught them better! ' he 
said, with a laugh in his pleasant eyes, the whole man 
of him, so weary the night before, now fresh and 
alert in the morning sunshine. 

Bridget listened with an unwilling attention. 



270 'MISSING' 

This bit of the war seen close at hand was beginning 
to suggest to her some new vast world, of which she 
was wholly ignorant, where she was the merest- 
cypher on sufferance. The thought was disagreeable 
to her irritable pride, and she thrust it aside. She 
had other things to consider. 

They drew up outside one of the general hospitals 
lined along the Camp road. 

* You'll find him in a special ward,' said Vincent, 
as he handed her out. ' But I'll take you first to 
Sister.' 

They entered the first hut, and made their way 
past various small rooms, amid busy people going 
to and fro. Bridget was aware of the usual hos- 
pital smell of mingled anaesthetic and antiseptic, and 
presently, her companion laid a hasty hand on her 
arm and drew her to one side. A surgeon passed 
with a nurse. They entered a room on the right, 
and left the door of it a little ajar. 

' The operating theatre,' said Vincent, with a 
gesture that shewed her where to look; and through 
the open door Bridget saw a white room beyond, an 
operating table and a man, a splendid boy of nine- 
teen or twenty lying on it, with doctors and nurses 
standing round. The youth's features shewed waxen 
against the white walls, and white overalls of the 
nurses. 

1 This way,' said Vincent. ' Sister, this is Miss 
Cookson. You remember Dr. Howson sent for 
her.' 



'MISSING' 271 

A shrewd-faced woman of forty in nurse's dress 
looked closely at Bridget. 

' We shall be very glad indeed, Miss Cookson, if 
you can throw any light on this case. It is one of 
the saddest we have here. Will you follow me, 
please?' 

Bridget found herself passing through the main 
ward of the hut, rows of beds on either hand. She 
seemed to be morbidly conscious of scores of eyes 
upon her, and was glad when she found herself in 
the passage beyond the ward. 

The Sister opened a door into a tiny sitting-room, 
and offered Bridget a chair. 

' They have warned you that this poor fellow is 
deaf and dumb? ' 

' Yes I had heard that' 

* And his brain is very clouded. He tries to do 
all we tell him it is touching to see him. But his real 
intelligence seems to be far away. Then there are 
the wounds. Did Dr. Howson tell you about them? ' 

' He said there were bad wounds.' 

The Sister threw up her hands. 

1 How he ever managed to do the walking he 
must have done to get through the lines is a mystery 
to us all. What he must have endured ! The wounds 
must have been dressed to begin with in a German 
field-hospital. Then on his way to Germany, before 
the wounds had properly healed that at least is our 
theory somewhere near the Belgian frontier he 
must have made his escape. What happened then, of 



272 'MISSING' 

course, during the winter and spring nobody knows; 
but when he reached our lines, the wounds were both 
in a septic state. There have been two operations 
for gangrene since he has been here. I don't think 
he'll stand another.' 

Bridget lifted her eyes and looked intently at the 
speaker 

' You think he's very ill? ' 

4 Very ill,' said the Sister emphatically. * If you 
can identify him, you must send for his wife at once 
at once! Lieutenant Sarratt was, I think, mar- 
ried?' 

' Yes,' said Bridget. * Now may I see him? ' 

The Sister looked at her visitor curiously. She 
was both puzzled and repelled by Bridget's manner, 
by its lack of spring and cordiality, its dull sugges- 
tion of something reserved and held back. But per- 
haps the woman was only shy; and oppressed by the 
responsibility of what she had come to do. The 
Sister was a very human person, and took tolerant 
views of everything that was not German. She rose, 
saying gently 

* If I may advise you, take time to watch him, 
before you form or express any opinion. We won't 
hurry you.' 

Bridget followed her guide a few steps along the 
corridor. The Sister opened a door, and stood aside 
to let Bridget pass in. Then she came in herself, and 
beckoned to a young probationer who was rolling 
bandages on the further side of the only bed the 



'MISSING' 273 

room contained. The girl quietly put down her work 
and went out. 

There was a man lying in the bed, and Bridget 
looked at him. Her heart beat so fast, that she felt 
for a moment sick and suffocated. The Sister bent 
over him tenderly, and put back the hair, the grey 
hair which had fallen over his forehead. At the 
touch, his eyes opened, and as he saw the Sister's 
face he very faintly smiled. Bridget suddenly put 
out a hand and steadied herself by a chair standing 
beside the bed. The Sister however saw nothing 
but the face on the pillow, and the smile. The smile 
was so rare! it was the one sufficient reward for 
all his nurses did for him. 

4 Now I'll leave you,' said the Sister, forbearing 
to ask any further questions. * Won't you sit down 
there? If you want anyone, you have only to touch 
that bell.' 

She disappeared. And Bridget sat down, her eyes 
on the figure in the bed, and on the hand outside 
the sheet. Her own hands were trembling, as they 
lay crossed upon her lap. 

How grey and thin the hair was how ghostly 
the face what suffering in every line ! 

Bridget drew closer. 

* George ! ' she whispered. 

No answer. The man's eyes were closed again. 
He seemed to be asleep. Bridget looked at his hand 
intently. Then she touched it. 

The heavy blue-veined eyelids rose again, as 



274 'MISSING' 

though at the only summons the brain understood. 
Bridget bent forward. What colour there had been 
in it before ebbed from her sallow face; her lips 
grew white. The eyes of the man in the bed met 
hers first mechanically without any sign of con- 
sciousness; then was it imagination? or was there 
a sudden change of expression a quick trouble a 
flickering of the lids ? Bridget shook through every 
limb. If he recognised her, if the sight of her 
brought memory back even a gleam of it there 
was an end of everything, of course. She had only to 
go to the nearest telegraph office and send for Nelly. 

But the momentary stimulus passed as she looked 
the eyes grew vacant again the lids fell. Bridget 
drew a long breath. She raised herself and moved 
her chair farther away. 

Time passed. The window behind her was open, 
and the sun came in, and stole over the bed. The 
sick man scarcely moved at all. There was com- 
plete silence, except for the tread of persons in the 
corridor outside, and certain distant sounds of mus- 
ketry and bomb practice from the military camp half 
a mile away. 

He was dying the man in the bed. That was 
plain. Bridget knew the look of mortal illness. It 
couldn't be long. 

She sat there nearly an hour thinking. At the 
end of that time she rang the hand-bell near her. 

Sister Agnes appeared at once. Bridget had risen 
and confronted her. 



'MISSING' 275 

1 Well,' said the Sister eagerly. But the visitor's 
irresponsive look quenched her hopes at once. 

4 1 see nothing at all that reminds me of my 
brother-in-law,' said Bridget with emphasis. * I am 
very sorry but I cannot identify this person as 
George Sarratt.' 

The Sister's face fell. 

* You don't even see the general likeness Dr. How- 
son thought he saw?' 

Bridget turned back with her towards the bed. 

4 1 see what Dr. Howson meant,' she said, slowly. 
4 But there is no real likeness. My brother-in-law's 
face was much longer. His mouth was quite differ- 
ent. And his eyes were brown.' 

* Did you see the eyes again? Did he look at 
you? ' 

4 Yes.' 

* And there was no sign of recognition ? ' 
4 No.' 

4 Poor dear fellow ! ' said the Sister, stooping over 
him again. There was a profound and yearning pity 
in the gesture. 4 1 wish we could have kept him more 
alive more awake for you, to see. But there had 
to be morphia this morning. He had a dreadful 
night. Are you quite sure? Wouldn't you like to 
come back this afternoon, and watch him again? 
Sometimes a second time Oh, and what of the 
hands ? did you notice them ? ' And suddenly re- 
membering Dr. Howson's words, the Sister pointed 



276 'MISSING' 

to the long, bloodless fingers lying on the sheet, and 
to the marked deformity in each little finger. 

' Yet but George's hands were not .peculiar in 
any way.' Bridget's voice, as she spoke, seemed to 
herself to come from far away; as though it were 
that of another person speaking under compulsion. 

* I'm sorry I'm sorry!' the Sister repeated. 
* It's so sad for him to be dying here all alone 
nobody knowing even who he is when one thinks 
how somebody must be grieving and longing for 
him.' 

'Have you no other enquiries?' said Bridget, 
abruptly, turning to pick up some gloves she had laid 
down. 

4 Oh yes we have had other visitors and I be- 
lieve there is a gentleman coming to-morrow. But 
nothing that sounded so promising as your visit. You 
won't come again? ' 

* It would be no use,' said the even, determined 
voice. ' I will write to Dr. Howson from London. 
And I do hope ' for the first time, the kindly nurse 
perceived some agitation in this impressive stranger 
' I do hope that nobody will write to my sister to 
Mrs. Sarratt. She is very delicate. Excitement and 
disappointment might just kill her. That's why I 
came.' 

' And that of course is why Dr. Howson wrote 
to you first. Oh I am sure he will take every care. 
He'll be very, very sorry! You'll write to him? 
And of course so shall I.' 



'MISSING' 277 

The news that the lady from England had failed 
to identify the nameless patient to whom doctor and 
nurses had been for weeks giving their most devoted 
care spread rapidly, and Bridget before she left the 
hospital had to run the gauntlet of a good many 
enquiries, at the hands of the various hospital chiefs. 
She produced on all those who questioned her the 
impression of an unattractive, hard, intelligent 
woman whose judgment could probably be trusted. 

* Glad she isn't my sister-in-law ! ' thought Vincent 
as he turned back from handing her into the motor 
which was to take her to the port. But he did not 
doubt her verdict, and was only sorry for ' old How- 
son,' who had been so sure that something would 
come of her visit. 

The motor took Bridget rapidly back to D , 

where she would be in good time for an afternoon 
boat. She got some food, automatically, at a hotel 
near the quay, and automatically made her way to 
the boat when the time came. A dull sense of 
something irrevocable, something horrible, over- 
shadowed her. But the * will to conquer ' in her 
was as iron; and, as in the Prussian conscience, left 
no room for pity or remorse. 



CHAPTER XIII 

A PSYCHOLOGIST would have found much to 
interest him in Bridget Cookson's mental 
state during the days which followed on her 
journey to France. The immediate result of that 
journey was an acute sharpening of intelligence, 
accompanied by a steady, automatic repression of all 
those elements of character or mind which might 
have interfered with its free working. Bridget 
understood perfectly that she had committed a crime, 
and at first she had not been able to protect herself 
against the normal reaction of horror or fear. But 
the reaction passed very quickly. Conscience gave 
up the ghost. Selfish will, and keen wits held the 
field; and Bridget ceased to be more than occasion- 
ally uncomfortable, though a certain amount of 
anxiety was of course inevitable. 

She did not certainly want to be found out, either 
by Nelly or the Farrells ; and she took elaborate steps 
to prevent it. She wrote first a long letter to How- 
son giving her reasons for refusing to believe in 

his tentative identification of the man at X as 

George Sarratt, and begging him not to write to 
her sister. ' That would be indeed cruel. She can 
just get along now, and every month she gets a 
little stronger. But her heart, which was weakened 
278 



'MISSING' 279 

by the influenza last year, would never stand the 
shock of a fearful disappointment. Please let her be. 
I take all the responsibility. That man is not George 
Sarratt. I hope you may soon discover who he is.' 

Step No. 2 was to go, on the very morning after 
she arrived in London, to the Enquiry Office in 

A Street. Particulars of the case in France had 

that morning reached the office, and Bridget was but 
just in time to stop a letter from Miss Eustace to 
Nelly. When she pointed out that she had been over 
to France on purpose to see for herself, that there 
was no doubt at all in her own mind, and that it 
would only torment a frail invalid to no purpose to 
open up the question, the letter was of course 
countermanded. Who could possibly dispute a sis- 
ter's advice in such a case ? And who could attribute 
the advice to anything else than sisterly affection ! 

Meanwhile among the mountains an unusually 
early winter was beginning to set in. The weather 
grew bitterly cold, and already a powdering of snow 
was on the fell-tops. For all that, Nelly could never 
drink deep enough of the November beauty, as it 
shone upon the fells through some bright frosty days. 
The oaks were still laden with leaf; the fern was still 
scarlet on the slopes; and the ghylls and waterfalls 
leapt foaming white down their ancestral courses. 
And in this austerer world, Nelly's delicate per- 
sonality, as though braced by the touch of winter, 
seemed to move more lightly and buoyantly. She 
was more vividly interested in things and persons 



280 'MISSING' 

in her drawing, her books, her endless knitting and 
sewing for the wounded. She was puzzled that 
Bridget stayed so long in town, but alack ! she could 
do very well without Bridget. Some portion of the 
savour of life, of that infinity of small pleasures 
which each day may bring for the simple and the 
pure in heart, was again hers. Insensibly the great 
wound was healing. The dragging anguish of the 
first year assailed her now but rarely. 

One morning she opened the windows in the little 
sitting-room, to let in the sunshine, and the great 
spectacle of the Pikes wrapped in majestic shadow, 
purple-black, with the higher peaks ranged in a hier- 
archy of light behind them. 

She leant far out of the window, breathing in the 
tonic smell of the oak leaves on the grass beneath 
her, and the freshness of the mountain air. Then, as 
she turned back to the white-walled raftered room 
with its bright fire, she was seized with the pleasant- 
ness of this place which was now her home. Insen- 
sibly it had captured her heart, and her senses. And 
who was it what contriving brain had designed 
and built it up, out of the rough and primitive dwell- 
ing it had once been? 

Of course, William Farrell had done it all ! There 
was scarcely a piece of furniture, a picture, a book, 
that was not of his choosing and placing. Little by 
little, they had been gathered round her. His hand 
had touched and chosen them, every one. He took 
far more pleasure and interest in the details of these 



'MISSING 1 281 

few rooms than in any of his own houses and costly 
possessions. 

Suddenly as she sat there on the window-ledge, 
considering the room, her back to the mountains < 
one of those explosions of consciousness rushed upon 
Nelly, which, however surprising the crash, are really 
long prepared and inevitable. 

What did that room really mean the artistic and 
subtle simplicity of it? the books, the flowers, and 
the few priceless things, drawings or terra-cottas, 
brought from the cottage, and changed every few 
weeks by Farrell himself, who would arrive with 
them under his arm, or in his pockets, and take them 
back in like manner. 

The colour flooded into Nelly's face. She dropped 
it in her hands with a low cry. An agony seized 
her. She loathed herself. 

Then springing up passionately she began to pace 
the narrow floor, her slender arms and hands locked 
behind her. 

Sir William was coming that very evening. So 
was Cicely, who was to be her own guest at the farm, 
while Marsworth, so she heard, was to have the 
spare room at the cottage. 

She had not seen William Farrell for some time 
for what counted, at least, as some time in their 
relation; not since that evening before Bridget went 
away more than a fortnight. But it was borne in 
upon her that she had heard from him practically 
every day. There, in the drawer of her writing- 



282! 'MISSING' 

table, lay the packet of his letters. She looked for 
them now morning after morning, and if they failed 
her, the day seemed blank. Anybody might have 
read them or her replies. None the less Farrell's 
letters were the outpouring of a man's heart and 
mind to the one person with whom he felt himself 
entirely at ease. The endless problems and happen- 
ings of the great hospital to which he was devoting 
more and more energy, and more and more wealth; 
the incidents and persons that struck him; his loves 
and hates among the staff or the patients; the 
humour or the pity of the daily spectacle; it was all 
there in his letters, told in a rich careless English 
that stuck to the memory. Nelly was accustomed to 
read and re-read them. 

Yes, and she was proud to receive them ! proud 
that he thought so much of her opinion and cared 
so much for her sympathy. But why did he write to 
her, so constantly, so intimately? what was the real 
motive of it all? 

At last, Nelly asked herself the question. It was 
fatal of course. So long as no question is asked 
of Lohengrin who, what, and whence he is the 
spell holds, the story moves. But examine it, as we 
all know, and the vision fades, the gleam is gone. 

She passed rapidly, and almost with terror, into 
a misery of remorse. What had she been doing with 
this kindest and best of men? Allowing him to 
suppose that after a little while she would be quite 
ready to forget George and be his wife? That 



'MISSING' 283 

threw her into a fit of helpless crying. The tears 
ran down her cheeks as she moved to and fro. Her 
George ! falling out there, in that ghastly No Man's 
Land, dying out there, alone, with no one to help, 
and quiet now in his unknown grave. And after 
little more than a year she was to forget him, and 
be rich and happy with a new lover a new hus- 
band? 

She seemed to herself the basest of women. 
Base towards George and towards Farrell both I 
What could she do ? what must she do ? Oh, she 
must go away she must break it all off! And 
looking despairingly round the room, which only an 
hour before had seemed to her so dear and familiar, 
she tried to imagine herself in exile from all it repre- 
sented, cut off from Farrell and from Cicely, left 
only to her own weak self. 

But she must she must! That very evening she 
must speak to Willy she must have it out. Of 
course he would urge her to stay there he would 
promise to go away and leave her alone. But that 
would be too mean, too ungrateful. She couldn't 
banish him from this spot that he loved, where he 
snatched his few hours always now growing fewer 
of rest and pleasure. No, she must just depart. 
Without telling him? Without warning? Her will 
failed her. 

She got out her table, with its knitting, and its 
bundles of prepared work which had arrived that 
morning from the workroom, and began upon one of 



284 'MISSING' 

them mechanically. But she was more and more 
weighed down by a sense of catastrophe which was 
also a sense of passionate shame. Why, she. was 
George's wife, _still! his wife -f or; _who.,. could 
know, for certain* jJia^Jilwas4ead? That-waswhat 
the law meant. Seven years! 

She spent the day in a wretched confusion of 
thoughts and plans. A telegram from Cicely arrived 
about midday ' Can't get to you till to-morrow. 
Willy and Marsworth coming to-day Marsworth 
not till late.' 

So any hour might bring Farrell. She sat des- 
perately waiting for him. Meanwhile there was a 
post-card from Bridget saying that she too would 
probably arrive that evening. 

That seemed the last straw. Bridget would merely 
think her a fool; Bridget would certainly quarrel 
with her. Why, it had been Bridget's constant ob- 
ject to promote the intimacy with the Farrells, to 
throw her and Sir William together. Nelly remem- 
bered her own revolts and refusals. They seemed 
now so long ago! In those days it was jealousy 
for George that filled her, the fierce resolve to let no 
one so much as dream that she could ever forget him, 
and to allow no one to give money to George's wife, 
for whom George himself had provided, and should 
still provide. And at an earlier stage after George 
left her, and before he died she could see herself, 
as she looked back, keeping Sir William firmly at a 



'MISSING* 285 

distance, resenting those friendly caressing ways, 
which others accepted which she too now accepted, 
so meekly, so abominably! She thought of his 
weekly comings and goings, as they were now; how, 
in greeting and good-bye, he would hold her hands, 
both of them, in his; how once or twice he had 
raised them to his lips. And it had begun to seem 
quite natural to her, wretch that she was; because he 
pitied her, because he was so good to her and so 
much older, nearly twenty years. He was her 
brother and dear friend, and she the little sister 
whom he cherished, who sympathised with all he did, 
and would listen as long as he pleased, while he 
talked of everything that filled his mind the war 
news, his work, his books, his companions; or would 
sit by, watching breathlessly while his skilful hand 
put down some broad * note ' of colour or light, gen- 
erally on a page of her own sketch-book. 

Ah, but it must end it must end 1 And she must 
tell him to-night. 

Then she fell to thinking of how it was she had 
been so blind for so long; and was now in this tumult 
of change. One moment, and she was still the Nelly 
of yesterday, cheerful, patient, comforted by the 
love of her friends; and the next, she had become 
this poor, helpless thing, struggling with her con- 
science, her guilty conscience, and her sorrow. How 
had it happened? There was something uncanny, 
miraculous in it. But anyway, there, in a flash it 



286 'MISSING 1 

stood revealed her treason to George her un- 
kindness to Willy. 

For she would never marry him never! She 
simply felt herself an unfaithful wife a disloyal 
friend. 

The November day passed on, cloudless, to its 
red setting over the Coniston fells. Wetherlam 
stood black against the barred scarlet of the west, 
and all the valleys lay veiled in a blue and purple 
mist, traversed by rays of light, wherever a break 
in the mountain wall let the sunset through. The 
beautiful winter twilight had just begun, when Nelly 
heard the step she waited for outside. 

She did not run to the window to greet him as 
she generally did. She sat still, by the fire, her knit- 
ting on her knee. Her black dress was very black, 
with the plainest white ruffle at her throat. She 
looked very small and pitiful. Perhaps she meant to 
look it I The weak in dealing with the strong have 
always that instinctive resource. 

4 How jolly to find you alone ! ' said Farrell joy- 
ously, as he entered the room. ' I thought Miss 
Bridget was due.' He put down the books with 
which he had come laden and approached her with 
outstretched hands. ' I say ! you don't look well ! ' 
His look, suddenly sobered, examined her. 

* Oh yes, I am quite well. Bridget comes to- 
night.' 

She hurriedly withdrew herself, and he sat down 



'MISSING' 287 

opposite her, holding some chilly fingers to the blaze, 
surveying her all the time. 

'Why doesn't Bridget stop here and look after 
you?' 

Nelly laughed. * Because she has much more in- 
teresting things to do I * 

' That's most unlikely I Have you been alone all 
the week?' 

' Yes, but quite busy, thank you and quite well.' 

I You don't look it,' he repeated gravely, after a 
moment. 

' So busy, and so well,' she insisted, * that even I 
can't find excuses for idling here much longer.' 

He gave a perceptible start. * What does that 
mean ? What are you going to do ? ' 

* 1 don't know. But I think ' she eyed him un- 
easily ' hospital work of some kind.' 

He shook his head. 

* I wouldn't take you in my hospital 1 You'd 
knock up in a week.' 

' You're quite, quite mistaken,' she said, eagerly. 

I 1 can wash dishes and plates now as well as anyone. 
Hester told me the other day of a small hospital 
managed by a friend of hers where they want a 
parlour-maid. I could do that capitally.' 

1 Where is it? ' he asked, after a moment. 
She hesitated, and at last said evasively - 

* In Surrey somewhere I think.' 

He took up the tongs, and deliberately put the 
fire together, in silence. At last he said 



288 'MISSING' 

' I thought you promised Cicely and me that you 
wouldn't attempt anything of the kind? ' 

* Not till I was fit. 1 Her voice trembled a little. 
* But now I am quite fit* 

4 You should let your friends judge that for you,' 
he said gently. 

' No, no, I can't. I must judge for myself.' She 
spoke with growing agitation. * You have been so 
awfully, awfully good to me ! and now ' she bent 
forward and laid a pleading hand on his arm 
' now you must be good to me in another way I you 
must let me go. I brood here too much. I want 
not to think I am so tired of myself. Let 
me go and think about other people drudge a 
little and slave a little I Let me it will do me 
good ! ' 

His face altered perceptibly during this appeal. 
When he first came in, fresh from the frosty air, his 
fair hair and beard flaming in the firelight, his eyes 
all pleasure, he had seemed the embodiment of what- 
ever is lusty and vigorous in life an overwhelming 
presence in the little cottage room. But he had many 
subtler aspects. And as he listened to her, the Vik- 
ing, the demi-god, disappeared. 

1 And what about those to whom it will do 
harm? ' 

* Oh no, it won't do harm to anybody,' she 
faltered. 

' It will do the greatest harm ! ' he laid a sharp 
emphasis on the words. ' Isn't it worth while to be 



'MISSING' 289 

just the joy and inspiration of those who can work 
hard so that they go away from you, renewed like 
eagles ? Cicely and I come we tell you our troubles 
our worries our failures, and our successes. We 
couldn't tell them to anyone else. But you sit here ; 
and you're so gentle and so wise you see things so 
clearly, just because you're not in the crowd, not in 
the rough and tumble that we go away bucked up 1 
and run our shows the better for our hours with 
you. Why must women be always bustling and 
hurrying, and all of them doing the same things? If 
you only knew the blessing it is to find someone with 
a little leisure just to feel, and think ! just to listen 
to what one has to say. You know I am always 
bursting with things to say ! ' 

He looked at her with a laugh. His colour had 
risen. 

4 1 arrive here often full of grievances and 
wrath against everybody hating the Government 
bating the War Office hating our own staff, or 
somebody on it entirely and absolutely persuaded 
that the country is going to the dogs, and that we 
shall be at Germany's mercy in six months. Well, 
there you sit I don't know how you manage it ! * 
but somehow it all clears away. I don't want to 
hang anybody any more I think we are going to win 
I think our staff are splendid fellows, and the 
nurses, angels (they ain't, though, all the same!) 
and it's all you! just by being you just by giving 
me rope enough letting me have it all out. And I 



290 'MISSING* 

go away with twice the work In me I had when I 
came. And Cicely's the same and Hester. You 
play upon us all just because ' he hesitated ' be- 
cause you're so sweet to us all. You raise us to a 
higher power; you work through us. Who else will 
do it if you desert us? ' 

Her lips trembled. 

' I don't want to desert you, but what right have 
I to such comfort such luxury when other people 
are suffering and toiling?' 

He raised his eyebrows. 

* Luxury? This little room? And there you sit 
sewing and knitting all day! And I'll be bound you 
don't eat enough to keep a sparrow I * 

There was silence. She was saying to herself 
* Shall I ever be able to go? to break with them 
all?' The thought, the image, of George flashed 
again through her mind. But why was it so much 
fainter, so much less distinct than it had been an hour 
ago? Yet she seemed to turn to him, to beg him 
piteously to protect her from something vague and 
undefined. 

Suddenly a low voice spoke 

'Nelly! don't go!' 

She looked up startled her childish eyes full of 
tears. 

He held out his hand, and she could not help it, 
she yielded her own. 

Farrell's look was full of energy, of determina- 



'MISSING' 291 

tion. He drew nearer to her, still holding her hand. 
But he spoke with perfect self-control. 

4 Nelly, I won't deceive you ! I love you ! You 
are everything to me. It seems as if I had never 
been happy never known what happiness could pos- 
sibly mean till I knew you. To come here every 
week to see you like this for these few hours it 
changes everything it sweetens everything be- 
cause you are in my heart because I have the hope 
that some day ' 

She withdrew her hand and covered her face. 

'Oh, it's my fault my fault!' she said, inco- 
herently ' how could I ? how could I ? ' 

There was silence again. He opened his lips to 
speak once or twice, but no words came. One ex- 
pression succeeded another on his face; his eyes 
sparkled. At last he said ' How could you help it? 
You could not prevent my loving you.' 

' Yes, I could I ought ,' she said, vehemently. 

4 Only I was a fool I never realised. That's so like 
me. I won't face things. And yet ' she looked at 
him miserably ' I did beg you to let me live my own 
life didn't I ? not to spoil me not not to be so 
kind to me.' 

He smiled. 

* Yes. But then you see you were you ! * 

She sprang up, looking down upon him, as he sat 
by the fire. ' That's just it. If I were another per- 
son! But no! no! I can't be your friend. I'm 



292 'MISSING' 

not old enough or clever enough. And I can't ever 
be anything else.' 

' Why ? ' He asked it very quietly, his eyes raised 
to hers. He could see the quick beat of her breath 
under her black dress. 

* Because I'm not my own. I'm not free you 
know I'm not. I'm not free legally and I'm not 
free in heart. Oh, if George were to come in at that 
door! ' she threw back her head with a passionate 
gesture * there would be nobody else in the world 
for me nobody nobody ! ' 

He stooped over the fire, fidgeting with it, so that 
his face was hidden from her. 

* You know, I think, that if I believed there was 
the faintest hope of that, I should never have said a 
word of my own feelings. But as it is why must 
you feel bound to break up this this friendship, 
which means so much to us all? What harm is there 
in it? Time will clear up a great deal. I'll hold my 
tongue I promise you. I won't bother you. I 
won't speak of it again for a year or more jf 
you wish. But don't forsake us ! * 

He looked up with that smile which in Cicely's 
unbiased opinion gave him such an unfair advantage 
over womankind. 

With a little sob, Nelly walked away towards the 
window, which was still uncurtained though the night 
had fallen. Outside there was a starry deep of sky, 
above Wetherlam and the northern fells. The great 



'MISSING' 293 

shapes held the valley in guard; the river windings 
far below seemed still to keep the sunset; while 
here and there shone scattered lights in farms 
and cottages, sheltering the old, old life of the 
dales. 

Insensibly Nelly's passionate agitation began to 
subside. Had she been filling her own path with 
imaginary perils and phantoms? Yet there echoed 
in her mind the low-spoken words ' I won't deceive 
you ! I love you ! ' And the recollection both fright- 
ened and touched her. 

Presently Farrell spoke again, quite in his usual 
voice. 

4 1 shall be in despair if you leave me to tackle 
Cicely alone. She's been perfectly mad lately. But 
you can put it all right if you choose.' 

Nelly was startled into turning back towards him. 

'Oh! how can I?' 

' Tell her she has been behaving abominably, and 
making a good fellow's life a burden to .him. Scold 
her! Laugh at her! ' 

'What has she been doing?' said Nelly, still 
standing by the window. 

Farrell launched into a racy and elaborate ac- 
count the effort of one determined, coute que coute, 
to bring the conversation back to an ordinary key 
of Cicely's proceedings, during the ten days since 
Nelly had seen her. 

It appeared that Marsworth, after many weeks 
during which they had heard nothing of him, had 



294 'MISSING' 

been driven north again to his Carton doctor, by a 
return of neuralgic trouble in his wounded arm; and 
as usual had put up at the Rectory, where as 
usual Miss Daisy, the Rector's granddaughter, had 
ministered to him like the kind little brick she 
was. 

* You see, she's altogether too good to be true ! ' 
said Farrell. ' And yet it is true. She looks after 
her grandfather and the parish. She runs the Sun- 
day school, and all the big boys are in love with her. 
She does V.A.D. work at the hospital. She spends 
nothing on her dress. She's probably up at six every 
morning. And all the time, instead of being plain, 
which of course virtue ought to be, she's as pretty 
as possible like a little bird. And Cicely can't abide 
her. I don't know whether she's in love with Mars- 
worth. Probably she is. Why not? At any rate, 
whenever Marsworth and Cicely fall out, which they 
do every day Cicely has the vile habit of course 
you know ! of visiting Marsworth's sins upon little 
Daisy Stewart. I understood she was guilty of some 
enormity at the Red Cross sale in the village last 
week. Marsworth was shocked, and had it out with 
her. Consequently they haven't been on speaking 
terms for days.' 

* What shall we do with them to-morrow? ' cried 
Nelly in alarm, coming to sit down again by the fire 
and taking up her knitting. How strange it was 
after that moment of tempestuous emotion to have 
fallen back within a few minutes into this familiar, 



< MISSING' 295 

intimate chat! Her pulse was still rushing. She 
knew that something irrevocable had happened, and 
that when she was alone, she must face it. And 
meanwhile here she sat knitting ! and trying to help 
him with Cicely as usual ! 

' Oh, and to-morrow ! ' said Farrell with amuse- 
ment, * the fat will indeed be in the fire.' 

And he revealed the fact that on his way through 
Grasmere he had fallen in with the Stewarts. The 
old man had been suffering from bronchitis, and the 
two had come for a few days' change to some cousins 
at Grasmere. 

' And the old man's a bit of a collector and wants 
to see the Turners. He knows Carton by heart. So 
I had to ask them to come up to-morrow and there 
it is ! Cicely will find them in possession, with Mars- 
worth in attendance ! ' 

1 Why does she come at all? ' said Nelly, wonder- 
ing. * She knows Captain Marsworth will be here. 
She said so, in her telegram.' 

Farrell shrugged his shoulders. 

" It taks aw soarts to mak a worrld," as they say 
up here. But Marsworth and Cis are queer speci- 
mens ! I am privately certain he can't do for long 
without seeing her. And as for her, I had no sooner 
arranged that he should join me here to-night, than 
she telegraphed to you! Just like her! I had no 
idea she thought of coming. Well, I suppose to 
quarrel yourself into matrimony is one of the recog- 
nised openings ! ' 



296 'MISSING* 

The talk dropped. The joint consciousness be- 
hind it was too much for it. It fell like a withered 
leaf. 

Farrell got up to go. Nelly too rose, trembling, 
to her feet. He took her hand, 

* Don't leave us,' he repeated, softly. * You are 
our little saint you help us by just living. Don't 
attempt things too hard for you. You'll kill your- 
self, and then ' 

She looked at him mutely, held by the spell of his 
eyes. 

1 Well then,' he finished, abruptly, * there won't 
be much left for one man to live for. Good- 
night.' 

He was gone, and she was left standing in the 
firelight, a small, bewildered creature. 

4 What shall I do ? ' she was saying to herself, 
1 Oh, what ought I to do ? * 

She sank down on the floor, and hid her face 
against a chair. Helplessly, she wished that Hester 
would come ! someone wise and strong who would 
tell her what was right. The thought of supplant- 
ing George, of learning to forget him, of letting 
somebody else take his place in her heart, was hor- 
rible even monstrous to her. Yet she did not 
know how she would ever find the strength to make 
Farrell suffer. His devotion appealed not to any 
answering passion in her there was none but to 
an innate lovingness, that made it a torment to her 
to refuse to love and be loved. Her power of dream, 



'MISSING' 297 

of visualisation, shewed him to her alone and un- 
happy; when, perhaps, she might still without harm 
have been a help to him have shewn him her 
gratitude. She felt herself wavering and retreating; 
seeking, as usual, the easiest path out of her great 
dilemma. Must she either be disloyal to her George? 
her dead, her heroic George ! or unkind to this 
living man, whose unselfish devotion had stood be- 
tween her and despair? After all, might it not still 
go on? She could protect herself. She was not 
afraid. 

But she was afraid ! She was in truth held by the 
terror of her own weakness, and Farrell's strength, 
as she lay crouching by the fire. 

Outside the wind was rising. Great clouds were 
coming up from the south-west. The rain had begun. 
Soon it was lashing the windows, and pouring from 
the eaves of the old farmhouse. 

Nelly went back to her work; and the wind and 
rain grew wilder as the hours passed. Just as she 
was thinking wearily of going to bed, there were 
sounds of wheels outside. 

Bridget? so late ! Nelly had long since given her 
up. What a night on which to face the drive from 
Windermere ! Poor horse ! poor man I 

Yes, it was certainly Bridget! As Nelly half rose, 
she heard the harsh, deep voice upon the stairs. A 
tall figure, heavily cloaked, entered. 

' My dear Bridget I'd quite given you up ! ' 

* No need,' said Bridget coolly, as she allowed 



298 'MISSING* 

Nelly to kiss her cheek. * The afternoon train from 
Euston was a little late. You can't help that with 
all these soldiers about.' 

1 Come and sit down by the fire. Have you done 
all you wanted to do ? ' 

4 Yes.' 

Bridget sat down, after taking off her wet water- 
proof, and held a draggled hat to the blaze. Nelly 
looking at her was struck by the fact that Bridget's 
hair had grown very grey, and the lines in her face 
very deep. What an extraordinary person Bridget 
was! What had she been doing all this time? 

But nothing could be got out of the traveller. She 
sat by the fire for a while, and let Nelly get her a 
tray of food. But she said very little, except to 
complain of the weather, and, once, to ask if the 
Farrells were at the cottage. 

1 Sir William is there, with Captain Marsworth,' 
said Nelly. * Cicely comes here to-morrow.' 

4 Does she expect me to give her my room? ' said 
Bridget sharply. 

4 Not at all. She likes the little spare-room.' 

1 Or pretends to ! Has Sir William been here 
to-day? ' 

4 Yes, he came round.' 

A few more questions and answers led to silence 
broken only by the crackling of the fire. The fire- 
light played on Nelly's cheek and throat, and on her 
white languid hands. Presently it caught her wed- 
ding-ring, and Bridget's eye was drawn to the sparkle 



'MISSING' 299 

of the gold. She sat looking absently at her sister. 
She was thinking of a tiny room in a hut hospital 
of the bed and of those eyes that had opened on 
her. And there sat Nelly knowing nothing! 

It was all a horrible anxiety. But it couldn't last 
long. 



CHAPTER XIV 

O you are not at church? ' 

The voice was Marsworth's as he stepped 
inside the flagged passage of the farm, Nelly 
having just opened the door to him. 

* It's so far ! in winter,' said Nelly a little guiltily. 
4 1 go to Grasmere in summer.' 

* Oh ! don't apologise to a heathen like me ! 
I'm only too thankful to find you alone. Is your 
sister here? ' 

' Yes. But we've made a room for her in one of 
the outhouses. She works there.' 

' What at? Is she still learning Spanish? ' asked 
Marsworth, smiling, as he followed Nelly into the 
little white drawing-room. 

* I don't know,' said Nelly, after a moment, in a 
tone of depression. ' Bridget doesn't tell me.' 

The corners of Marsworth's strong mouth 
shewed amusement. He was not well acquainted 
with Bridget Cookson, but as far as his observation 
went, she seemed to him a curious specimen of the 
half-educated pretentious woman so plentiful in our 
modern life. In place of ' psychology ' and ' old 
Spanish,' the subjects in which Miss Cookson was 
said to be engaged, he would have liked to prescribe 
300 



'MISSING' 301 

for her and all her kin courses of an elementary 
kind in English history and vulgar fractions. 

But, for Nelly Sarratt, Marsworth felt the tender 
and chivalrous respect that natures like hers exact 
easily from strong men. To him, as to Farrell, she 
was the ' little saint ' and peacemaker, with her lov- 
ingness, her sympathy, her lack of all the normal 
vanities and alloys that beset the pretty woman. 
That she was not a strong character, that she was 
easily influenced and guided by those who touched 
her affections, he saw. But that kind of weakness 
in a woman when that woman also possesses the 
mysterious something, half physical, half spiritual, 
which gives delight is never unpleasing to such men 
as Marsworth, nor indeed to other women. It was 
Marsworth's odd misfortune that he should have 
happened to fall in love with a young woman who 
had practically none of the qualities that he naturally 
and spontaneously admired in the sex. 

It was, however, about that young woman that he 
had come to talk. For he was well aware of Nelly's 
growing intimacy with Cicely, and had lately begun 
to look upon that as his last hope. 

Yet he was no sooner alone with Nelly than he 
felt a dim compunction. This timid creature, with 
her dark haunting eyes, had problems enough of her 
own to face. He perceived clearly that Farrell's 
passion for her was mounting fast, and he had little 
or no idea what kind of response she was likely to 
make to it. But all the same his own need drove him 



302 'MISSING' 

on. And Nelly, who had scarcely slept all night, 
caught eagerly at some temporary escape from her 
own perplexities. 

* Dear Mrs. Sarratt! have you any idea, whether 
Cicely cares one brass farthing for me, or not? ' 

To such broad and piteous appeal was a gallant 
officer reduced. Nelly was sorry for him, but could 
not hide the smile in her eyes, as she surveyed him. 

* Have you really asked her? ' 

1 Asked her? Many times ! in the dark ages. It 
is months, however, since she gave me the smallest 
chance of doing it again. Everything I do or say 
appears to annoy her, and of course, naturally, I 
have relieved her of my presence as much as pos- 
sible.' 

Nelly had taken up her knitting. 

' If you never come perhaps Cicely thinks you 
are tired of her.' 

Marsworth groaned. 

' Is that her line now? And yet you know you 
are witness ! of how she behaves when I do come.' 

Nelly looked up boldly. 

1 You mustn't be angry, but why can't you accept 
her as she is without always wanting her dif- 
ferent?' 

Marsworth flushed slightly. The impressive effect 
of his fine iron-grey head, and marked features, his 
scrupulously perfect dress, and general look of com- 
petence and ability, was deplorably undone by the 
signs in him of bewilderment and distress. 



'MISSING' 303 

' You mean you think I bully her ? she thinks 
so?' 

' She she feels you so dreadfully disapprove of 
her ! ' said Nelly, sticking to it, but smiling. 

' She regards me as a first-class prig in fact? ' 

' No but she thinks you don't always understand.' 

* That I don't know what a splendid creature she 
is, really?' said Marsworth with increasing agita- 
tion. ' But I do know it ! I know it up and down. 
Why everybody except those she dislikes ! at that 
hospital, adores her. She's wearing herself out at 
the work. None of us are fit to black her boots. 
But if one ever tries to tell her so my hat ! ' 

' Perhaps she doesn't like being praised either, 1 
said Nelly softly. ' Perhaps she thinks an old 
friend should take it all for granted.' 

* Good Lord ! ' said Marsworth holding his head 
in desperation 'whatever I do is wrong! Dear 
Mrs. Sarratt ! look here I must speak up for my- 
self. You know how Cicely has taken of late to 
being intolerably rude to anybody she thinks is my 
friend. She castigates me through them. That poor 
little girl, Daisy Stewart why she's ready at any 
moment to worship Cicely! But Cicely tramples 
on her you know how she does it and if I inter- 
fere, I'm made to wish I had never been born ! At 
the present moment, Cicely won't speak to me. 
There was some silly shindy at a parish tea 
last week by the way, she's coming to you 
to-day?' 



304 'MISSING' 

1 She arrives for lunch,' said Nelly, looking at the 
clock. 

' And the Stewarts are coming to the cottage in 
the afternoon ! ' said Marsworth in despair. * Can 
you keep her away?' 

4 I'll try but you know it's not much good trying 
to manage Cicely.' 

* Don't I know it I I return to my first ques- 
tion does she care a hapo'rth?' 

Nelly was looking dreamily into the fire. 
1 You mean does she care enough to give up her 
ways and take to yours ? ' 

* Yes, I suppose I do mean that,' he said, with 
sudden seriousness. 

Nelly shook her head, smiling. 

* I don't know ! But Cicely's worth a deal of 
trouble.' 

He assented with a mixture of fervour and de- 
pression. 

* We've known each other since we were boy and 
girl. That's what makes the difficulty, perhaps. We 
know each other too well. When she was a child of 
fourteen, I was already in the Guards, and I used to 
try and tackle her because no one else would. Her 
father was dead. Her mother had no influence with 
her; and Willy was too lazy. So I tried my hand. 
And I find myself doing the same thing now. But 
of course it's fatal it's fatal ! ' 

Nelly tried to cheer him up, but she was not her- 
self very hopeful. She perceived too clearly the 



'MISSING' 305; 

martinet in him and the rebel in Cicely. If some- 
thing were suddenly to throw them together, some 
common interest or emotion, each might find the 
other's heart in a way past undoing. On the other 
hand the jarring habit, once set up, has a way of 
growing worse, and reducing everything else to dust 
and ashes. Finally she wound up with a timid but 
emphatic counsel. 

' Please please don't be sarcastic.' 

He looked injured. 

* I never am ! ' 
Nelly laughed. 

' You don't know when you are. And be very 
nice to her this afternoon.' 

' How can I, if she shews me at once that I'm 
unwelcome? You haven't answered my question." 

He was standing ready for departure. Nelly's 
face changed became all sad and tender pity. 

* You must ask it yourself ! ' she said eagerly. 
1 Go on asking it. It would be too too dreadful, 
wouldn't it? to miss everything by being proud, 
or offended, for nothing ' 

' What do you mean by everything? ' 
1 You know,' she said, after a moment, shielding 
her eyes as they looked into the fire; c I'm sure you 
know. It is everything.' 

As he walked back to the cottage, he found him- 
self speculating not so much about his own case as 
about his friend's. Willy was certainly in love. And 
Nelly Sarratt was as softly feminine as Cicely was 



306 'MISSING' 

mannish and strong. But he somehow did not feel 
that Willy's chances were any safer than his own. 

A car arrived at one o'clock bringing Cicely, much 
wrapped up in fur coat and motor-veils. She came 
impetuously into the sitting-room, and seemed to fill 
it. It took some time to peel her and reduce her to 
the size of an ordinary mortal. She then appeared 
in a navy-blue coat and skirt, with navy-blue boots 
buttoned almost to the knees. The skirt was im- 
mensely full and immensely short. When the strange 
erection to which the motor-veil was attached was 
removed, Cicely showed a dark head with hair cut 
almost short, and parted on the left side. Her eye- 
brows were unmistakably blackened, her lips unmis- 
takably strengthened ; and Nelly saw at once that her 
guest was in a very feverish and irritated condition. 

'Are you alone?' said Cicely, glancing imperi- 
ously round her, when the disrobing was done. 

' Bridget is here.' 

'What are you going to do this afternoon?' 

* Can't we have a walk, you and I, together? ' 

4 Of course we can. Why should we be bothered 
with anyone else ? ' 

1 1 suppose,' said Nelly timidly ' they will come 
in to tea?' 

' " They " ? Oh ! you mean Willy and Captain 
Marsworth? It is such a pity Willy can't find some- 
body more agreeable for these Sundays.' 

Cicely threw herself back in her chair, and lifted a 
navy-blue boot to the fire. 



'MISSING' 307 

' More agreeable than Captain Marsworth? ' 

' Exactly. Willy can't do anything without him, 
when he's in these parts; and it spoils everything! ' 

Nelly dropped a kiss on Cicely's hair, as she stood 
beside her. 

1 Why didn't you put off coming till next 
week? ' 

' Why should I allow my plans to be interfered 
with by Captain Marsworth? ' said Cicely, haughtily. 
* I came to see you! ' 

' Well, we needn't see much of him,' said Nelly, 
soothingly, as she dropped on a stool beside her 
friend. 

* I'm not going to be kept out of the cottage, by 
Captain Marsworth, all the same ! ' said Cicely 
hastily. * There are several books there I want.' 

'Oh, Cicely, what have you been doing?' said 
Nelly, laying her head on her guest's knees. 

'Doing? Nothing that I hadn't a perfect right 
to do. But I suppose that very particular gentle- 
man has been complaining?' 

Nelly looked up, and met an eye, fiercely inter- 
rogative, yet trying hard not to be interrogative. 

4 I've been doing my best to pick up the pieces.' 

* Then he has been complaining? ' 

' A little narrative of facts,' said Nelly mildly. 

' Facts facts/' said Cicely, with the air of a dis- 
turbed lioness. ' As if a man whose ideas of manners 
and morals date from about a million years before 
the Flood.' 



308 * MISSING ' 

' Dear ! there weren't any manners or morals a 
million years before the Flood.' 

Cicely drew a breath of exasperation. 

' It's all very well to laugh, but if you only knew 
how impossible that man is ! * 

4 Then why not get a Sunday free from him? ' 

Cicely flushed against her will, and said nothing. 
Nelly's black eyes observed her with as much sarcasm 
in their sweetness as she dared to throw into them. 
She changed her tone. 

' Don't go to the cottage this afternoon, Cicely.* 

* Why? ' The voice was peremptory. 

'Well, because ' Nelly described Farrell's 

chance meeting with the Stewarts and the inevitable 
invitation. Cicely's flush deepened. But she tried 
to speak carelessly. 

* Of course, the merest device on that girl's part ! 
She arranged it all.' 

' I really don't think she did.' 

* Ah, well, you haven't seen what's been going on. 
A more shameless pursuit ' 

Cicely stopped abruptly. There was a sudden 
sparkle in Nelly's look, which seemed to shew 
that the choice of the word * pursuit ' had been 
unlucky. 

Miss Farrell quieted down. 

c Of course,' she said, with a very evident attempt 
to recapture whatever dignity might be left on the 
field, ' neither Willy nor I like to see an old friend 
throwing himself away on a little pink and white 



< MISSING' 309 

nonentity like Daisy Stewart. We can't be expected 
to smile upon it.' 

( But I understand, from one of the parties prin- 
cipally concerned, that there is really nothing in it! * 
said Nelly, smiling. 

' One of the perjuries I suppose at which Jove 
laughs ! ' said Cicely getting up, and hastily rearrang- 
ing her short curls with the help of various combs, 
before the only diminutive looking-glass the farm 
sitting-room provided. ' However, we shall see what 
happens. I have no doubt Miss Daisy has arranged 
the proposal scene for this very afternoon. We shall 
be in for the last act of the play.' 

1 Then you are going to the cottage ? ' 

4 Certainly ! ' said Cicely, with a clearing brow. 
* Don't let's talk any more about it. Do give 
me some lunch. I'm ravenous. Ah, here's your 
sister ! ' 

For through a back window looking on what had 
once been a farm-yard, and was now a small garden, 
Cicely saw Bridget emerge from the rebuilt outhouse 
where an impromptu study had been devised for her, 
and walk towards the farm. 

' I say, what's happened to your sister? ' 

1 Happened to her ? What do you mean ? ' 

* She looks so much older.' 

* I suppose she's been working too hard,' said 
Nelly, remorsefully. * I wish I knew what it was all 
about.' 

* Well, I can tell you ' said Cicely laughing and 



310 'MISSING* 

whispering * that Willy doesn't think it's about any- 
thing in particular ! f 

' Hush ! ' said Nelly, with a pained look. c Per- 
haps we shall all turn out to be quite wrong. We 
shall discover that it was something ' 

* Desperately interesting and important? Not itl 
But I'm going to be as good as good. You'll see.' 

And when Bridget appeared, Cicely did indeed 
behave herself with remarkable decorum. Her 
opinion was that Nelly's strange sister had grown 
more unlike other people than ever since she had last 
seen her. She seemed to be in a perpetual brown 
study, which was compatible, however, with a curi- 
ous watchfulness which struck Cicely particularly. 
She was always aware of any undercurrent in the 
room of anyone going in or out of persons pass- 
ing in the road. At lunch she scarcely opened her 
lips, but Cicely was all the time conscious of being 
observed. After luncheon Bridget got up abruptly, 
and said she was going down to Grasmere to post 
a letter. 

' Oh, then,' said Nelly ' you can ask if there are 
any for me.' 

For there was no delivery at the farm on Sunday 
morning. Bridget nodded, and they soon saw her 
emerge from the farm gate and take the Grasmere 
road. 

' I must say your sister seems greatly to prefer 
her own company to ours,' said Cicely, lighting her 
cigarette. 



'MISSING' 311 

Again Nelly looked distressed. 

1 She was always like that,' she said at last. * It 
doesn't really mean anything.' 

4 Do I know you well enough to ask whether you 
get on with her? * 

Nelly coloured. * I try my best ' she said, rather 
despairingly. Then she added * she does all sorts 
of things for me that I'm too lazy to do for 
myself!' 

' I believe she likes Willy better than most peo- 
ple ! ' laughed Cicely. ' I'm not suggesting, please, 
that she has designs upon him. But she is certainly 
more forthcoming to him than to anybody else, isn't 
she?' 

Nelly did not reply. The remark only clouded her 
look still more. For her inner mind was perfectly 
aware of Bridget's attitude towards William Farrell, 
and understood it only too well. She knew by this 
time, past any doubt, that Bridget was hungry for 
the Farrell wealth, and was impatient with herself 
as a little fool who had not yet made certain of it. 
If she stuck to her purpose if she went away and 
cut off all communication with Carton Bridget 
would probably quarrel with her for good. 

Would she stick to her purpose ? Her mind was 
miserably swaying to and fro. She felt morally as 
she had once felt physically on a summer after- 
noon long before, when she, who could not swim, 
had gone imperceptibly out of her depth, while bath- 
ing, and had become suddenly aware of a seaward 



3 i2 'MISSING' 

current, carrying her away. No help was near. For 
five minutes, which had seemed five years, she had 
wrestled against the deadly force, which if her girl- 
ish strength had been a fraction less, would have 
swept her out, a lifeless plaything to the open sea. 
Spiritually, it was the same now. Farrell's will, and 
infinitely less important, but still, to be reckoned 
with Bridget's will, were pressing her hard. She 
did not know if she could keep her footing. 

Meanwhile Cicely, in complete ignorance of the 
new and agonised tension in Nelly's mind, was think- 
ing only of her own affairs. As soon as her after- 
luncheon cigarette was done, she sprang up and 
began to put on her hat. 

1 So you are going to the cottage ? ' said Nelly. 

' Certainly. How do you like my boots? * 

She held up one for inspection. 

'I don't like them!' 

4 Fast, you think? Ah, wait till you see my next 
costume! High Russian boots, delicious things, up 
to there ! ' Cicely indicated a point above the knee, 
not generally reached by the female boot ' hand- 
painted and embroidered with tassels you know 1 
corduroy trousers ! ' 

1 Cicely ! you won't ! ' 

' Shan't I and a pink jersey, the new shade? I 
saw a friend of mine in this get-up, last week. Rip- 
.. ping ! Only she had red hair, which completed it. 
Perhaps I might dye mine ! ' 

They sallied forth into a mild winter afternoon. 



'MISSING' 313 

Nelly would have avoided the cottage and Farrell if 
she could, but Cicely had her own way as usual. 
Presently they turned into a side lane skirting the 
tarn, from which the cottage and its approaches could 
be seen, at a distance. From the white-pillared 
porch, various figures were emerging, four in all. 

Cicely came to a stop. 

' There, you see ! ' she said, in her sharpest voice 
* Look there ! ' For two of the figures, whom it was 
easy to identify as Captain Marsworth and Miss 
Stewart, diverging from the other pair, went off by 
themselves in the direction of Skelwith, with a gay 
wave of the hand to the old Rector and Farrell left 
behind. 

Cicely's sudden scarlet ebbed in a moment, leaving 
her quite white. She walked on with difficulty, her 
eyes on the ground. Nelly dared not address her, or 
slip a sympathising hand into hers. And it was too 
late to retreat. Farrell had perceived them, and he 
and his companion came towards them. Cicely 
pulled herself rapidly together. 

Nelly too had need of a minute or two's recollec- 
tion before Farrell joined them. He and she were 
still to meet as usual, while meeting was possible 
wasn't that how it stood? After all, her new plans 
could not be made in a moment. She had promised 
nothing; but he had promised would she be able 
to hold him to it? Her heart trembled as he came 
nearer. 

But he met her in a sunny mood, introducing her 



3 H ' MISSING ' 

to the white-haired old clergyman, and watching 
Cicely with eyes that shewed a hidden amusement. 

* The other two seemed to have some private busi- 
ness to discuss,' he said carelessly. ' So they've got 
rid of us for a while. They're walking round the 
other side of the tarn and will join us at the top of 
Red Bank. At least if you're up to a walk? ' 

He addressed Nelly, who could do nothing but 
assent, though it meant a tete-a-tete with him, while 
Cicely and the old Rector followed. 

Mr. Stewart found Miss Farrell anything but an 
agreeable companion. He was not a shrewd ob- 
server, and the love-affairs especially of his fellow- 
creatures were always a surprise and a mystery to 
him. But he vaguely understood that his little grand- 
daughter was afraid of Miss Farrell and did not get 
pn with her. He, too, was afraid of Cicely and her 
sharp tongue, while her fantastic dress and her rouge 
put him in mind of passages in the prophet Ezekiel, 
the sacred author of whom he was at that moment 
making a special study with a view to a Cambridge 
University sermon. It would be terrible if Daisy 
were ever to take to imitating Miss Farrell. He 
was a little disturbed about Daisy lately. She had 
been so absent-minded, and sometimes even a 
little flighty. She had forgotten the day before, to 
look out some passages for him; and there was a rent 
in his old overcoat she had not mended. He was 
disagreeably conscious of it. And what could she 



'MISSING' 315 

have to say to Captain Marsworth? It was all 
rather odd and annoying. He walked in a pre- 
occupied silence. 

Farrell and Nelly meanwhile were, it seemed, in 
no lack of conversation. He told her that he might 
possibly be going to France, in a week or two, for a 
few days. The Allied offensive on the Somme was 
apparently shutting down for the winter. ' The 
weather in October just broke everybody's heart, 
vile luck ! Nothing to be done but to make the win- 
ter as disagreeable to the Boche as we can, and to go 
on piling up guns and shells for the spring. I'm 

going to look at hospitals at X ' he named a 

great base camp * and I daresay they'll let me have 
a run along some bit of the front, if there's a motor 
to be had.' 

Nelly stopped abruptly. He could see the colour 
fluctuating in her delicate face. 

'You're going to X ? You you might see 

Dr. Howson?' 

'Howson?' he said, surprised. 'Do you know 
him? Yes, I shall certainly see Howson. He's now 
the principal surgeon at one of the General Hospitals 
there, where I specially want to look at some new 
splints they've been trying.' 

Nelly moved on without speaking for a little. At 
last she said, almost inaudibly 

1 He promised me to make enquiries.' 

' Did he ? ' Farrell spoke in the grave, deep voice 
he seemed to keep for her alone, which was always 



3 i6 'MISSING' 

sweet to her ear. c And he has never written ? ' She 
shook her head. ' But he would have written in- 
stantly you may be quite sure, if there had been the 
slightest clue.' 

* Oh yes, I know, I know,' she said hastily. 

* Give me any message for him you like or any 
questions you'd like me to ask.' 

' Yes ' she said, vaguely. 

It seemed to him she was walking languidly, and 
he was struck by her weary look. The afternoon 
had turned windy and cold with gusts of rain. But 
when he suggested an immediate return to the cot- 
tage, Nelly would have none of it. 

' We were to meet Captain Marsworth and Miss 
Stewart. Where are they?* 

They emerged at the moment from the cottage 
grounds, upon the high road; Farrell pointed ahead, 
and Nelly saw Marsworth and Miss Stewart walk- 
ing fast up the hill before them, and evidently in close 
conversation. 

' What can they have to talk about ? ' said Nelly, 
wondering. 

' Wouldn't you like to know! ' 

1 You're not going to tell me ? ' 

* Not a word.' 

His eyes laughed at her. They walked on beside 
each other, strangely content. And yet, with what 
undercurrents of sensitive and wounded conscious- 
ness on her side, of anxiety on his ! 



'MISSING' 317 

At the top of Red Bank they came up with Mars- 
worth and Miss Stewart. Nelly's curiosity was more 
piqued than ever. If all that Marsworth had said to 
her was true, why this evident though suppressed agi- 
tation on the girl's part, and these shades of mystery 
in the air? Daisy Stewart was what anybody would 
have called ' a pretty little thing.' She was small, 
round-cheeked, round-eyed, round-limbed ; light upon 
her feet; shewing a mass of brown hair brushed 
with gold under her hat, and the fresh complexion of 
a mountain maid. Nelly guessed her age about three 
and twenty, and could not help keenly watching the 
meeting between her and Cicely. She saw Cicely 
hold out a limp hand, and the girl's timid, almost 
entreating eyes. 

But, the next moment, her attention was diverted 
to a figure slowly mounting the steep hill from 
Grasmere, on the top of which the cottage party were 
now standing, uncertain whether to push on for their 
walk, or to retreat homewards before the increasing 
rain. The person approaching was Bridget. As she 
perceived her, Nelly was startled into quick recol- 
lection of Cicely's remark of the morning * Your 
sister seems to have grown much older.' But not 
only older different! Nelly could not have analysed 
her own impression, but it was so painful that she ran 
down to meet her. 

* Bridget, it's too far for you to Grasmere ! and 
coming back up this awful hill! You look quite 



318 c MISSING' 

done. Do go home and lie down, or will you come 
to the cottage for tea first? It's nearer.' 

Bridget looked at her coldly. 

'Why do you make such a fuss? I'm all right. 
But I'm not coming to the cottage, thank you. I've 
got things to do.' 

The implication was that everyone else was idle. 
Nelly drew back, rebuffed. And as Bridget reached 
the group at the top of the hill it was as though 
the rain and darkness suddenly deepened. All talk 
dropped. Farrell, indeed, greeted her courteously, 
introduced her to the Stewarts, and asked her to 
come back to the cottage for tea. But he was refused 
as Nelly had been. Bridget went on her way alone 
towards the farm. But after parting from the others 
she turned back suddenly to say 

* There were no letters for you, Nelly.' 

4 What a mercy ! ' said Farrell, as Bridget 'dis- 
appeared. ' Don't you think so ? I never have any 
forwarded here.' 

1 Ah, but you get so many,' said Nelly wistfully. 
' But still, letters don't matter to me now.' 

He said nothing, but it roused in him a kind of 
fierce soreness that she would always keep the past 
so clearly before herself and him. 

Violent rain came on, and they hurried back to 
the cottage for shelter. Cicely was talking extrava- 
gantly all the time. She was tired to death, she said, 
of everything patriotic. The people who prattled 
about nursing, and the people who prattled about 



'MISSING' 319 

the war especially the people who talked about 
women's work were all equally intolerable. She 
meant to give up everything very soon. Somebody 
must amuse themselves, or the world would go mad. 
Farrell threw at her some brotherly jibes; the old 
Rector looked scared; and Marsworth said nothing. 

There were bright fires in the cottage, and the 
dripping walkers were glad to crowd round them ; all 
except Cicely and Marsworth, who seemed to Nelly's 
watching sense to be oddly like two wrestlers pacing 
round each other, and watching the opportunity to 
close. Each would take out a book from the shelves 
and put it back, or take up a newspaper from the 
tables crossing repeatedly, but never speaking. 
And meanwhile Nelly also noticed that Daisy 
Stewart, now that Cicely's close contact was removed, 
was looking extraordinarily pretty. Radiance, not 
to be concealed, shone from her charming childish 
face. 

Suddenly Marsworth paused in front of Cicely, 
intercepting her as she was making for the 
door. 

4 Would you be an angel, Miss Farrell, and help 
me to find a particular Turner drawing I want to 
see? Willy says it's in the studio somewhere.' 

Cicely paused, half haughty, half irresolute. 

1 Willy knows his way about the portfolios much 
better than I do.' 

Marsworth came nearer, and leaning one hand on 



320 * MISSING' 

the table between them, bent over to her. He was 
smiling, but there was emotion in his look. 

4 Willy is looking after these people. Won't you ? ' 

Cicely considered. 

4 All right ! ' she said carelessly, at last, and led 
the way. 



CHAPTER XV 

THE studio was empty. A wood fire burnt on 
the wide hearth, making a pleasant glow 
in the wintry twilight. Cicely seated her- 
self on the end of a sofa, crossed her feet, and took 
out a cigarette. But to Marsworth's intense relief 
she had taken off the helmet-like erection she called a 
hat, and her black curly hair strayed as it pleased 
about her brow and eyes. 

' Well ? ' she said, at last, looking at him coolly. 
Marsworth could not help laughing. He brought a 
chair, and placed it where he could see her from 
below, as he lay back in it, his hands behind his 
head. 

1 Of course, you don't want to look at the port- 
folio,' she resumed, ' that was your excuse. You 
want to tell me of your engagement to Miss Stewart.' 

Marsworth laughed again. Her ear caught what 
seemed to be a note of triumph. 

* Make haste, please! ' she said, breathing quickly. 
* There isn't very much time.' 

His face changed. He sat up, and held out his 
hand to her. 

' Dear Cicely, I want you to do something for me.' 
But she put her own behind her back. 

* Have you been quarrelling already? Because if 

321 



3 22' * MISSING ' 

you want me to make it up, that really isn't my 
vocation.' 

He was silent a moment surveying hen Then he 
said quietly 

1 1 want you to help me. I want you to be kind 
to that little girl.' 

* Daisy Stewart? Thank you. But I've no gift 
at all for mothering babes! Besides she'll now 
have all the advice, and all the kindness she wants.' 

Marsworth's lips twitched. 

* Yes, that's true if you and I can help her out. 
Cicely! aren't you a great friend of Sir John 
Raine?' 

He named one of the chiefs of the Army Medical 
Department, a man whose good word was the mak- 
ing of any aspirant in the field he ruled. 

Cicely looked rather darkly at her questioner. 

* What do you mean? ' 

* I want you to help me get an appointment for 
somebody.' 

' For whom? ' 

' For the man Daisy Stewart wants to marry.' 

Cicely could not conceal her start. 

4 1 don't like being mystified,' she said coldly. 

Marsworth allowed his smile to shew itself. 

1 I'm not trying to mystify you in the least. Daisy 
Stewart has been engaged for nearly a year to one of 
the house-surgeons in your hospital young Fellows. 
Nobody knows it not Willy even. It has been kept 
a dead secret, because that wicked old man the 



'MISSING' 323 

Rector won't have it. Daisy makes him comfort- 
able, and he won't give her up, if he can help it. And 
as young Fellows has nothing but his present pay 
160 a year with board and lodging it seemed 
hopeless. But now he has got his eye on some- 
thing.' 

And in a quiet business-like voice Marsworth put 
the case of the penniless one his qualifications, his 
ambitions, and the particular post under the Army 
Medical Board on which he had set his hopes. If 
only somebody with influence would give him a 
leg up ! 

Cicely interrupted. 

4 Does Willy know?' 

* No. You see, I have come to you first.' 
4 How long have you known ? ' 

1 Since my stay with them last autumn. I sus- 
pected something then, just as I was leaving; and 
Miss Daisy confessed when I was there in May. 
Since then she seems to have elected me her chief 
adviser. But, of course, I had no right to tell any- 
body anything.' 

' That is what you like to advise people? ' 

Marsworth considered it. 

* There was a time ' he said, at last, in a different 
voice, ' when my advice used to be asked by someone 
else and sometimes taken.' 

Cicely pretended to light another cigarette, but her 
slim fingers shook a little. 

* And now you never give it? ' 



3 2 4 * MISSING ' 

' Oh yes, I do,' he said, with sudden bitterness 

* even unasked. I'm always the same old bore.' 

There was silence. His right hand stole towards 
her left that was lying limply over her knee. Cicely's 
eyes looking down were occupied with his disabled 
arm, which, although much improved, was still glad 
to slip into its sling whenever it was not actively 
wanted. 

But just as he was capturing her, Cicely sprang up. 

* I must go and see about Sir John Raine.' 

1 Cicely I don't care a brass farthing about Sir 
John Raine ! ' 

' But having once brought him in, I recommend 
you to stick to him,' said Cicely, with teasing eyes. 

* And don't go advising young women. It's not good 
for the military. I'm going to take this business in 
hand.' 

And she made for departure, but Marsworth got 
to the door first, and put his back against it. 

' Find me the Turner, Cicely.' 

1 A man who asks for a thing on false pretences 
shouldn't have it.' 

A silence. Then a meek voice said 

' Captain Marsworth, my brother, Sir William 
Farrell, will be requiring my services at tea ! ' 

Marsworth moved aside and she forward. But 
as she neared him, he caught her passionately in 
his arms and kissed her. She released herself, 
crimson. 

' Do I like being kissed? ' she said in a low voice 



'MISSING' 325 

'do I ? Anyway don't do it again ! and if you 
dare to say a word yet to anyone ' 

Her eyes threatened; but he saw in them revela- 
tions her pride could not check, and would have dis- 
obeyed her at once; but she was too quick for him. 
In a second she had opened the door and was 
gone. 

During the rest of the afternoon, her brother and 
Nelly watched Cicely's proceedings with stupefac- 
tion; only equalled by the bewilderment of Miss 
Daisy Stewart. For that young lady was promoted 
to the good graces of Sir William's formidable sis- 
ter with a rapidity and completeness which only 
natural good manners and good sense could have 
enabled her to deal with; considering the icy exclu- 
sion to which she had been so long condemned. But 
as she possessed both, she took it very simply; always 
with the same serene light in her grey eyes. 

Marsworth said to himself presently that young 
Fellows' chances were good. But in truth he hardly 
remembered anything about them, except that by 
the help of them he had kissed Cicely ! And he had 
yet to find out what that remarkable fact was to 
mean, either to himself or to her. She refused to let 
him take her back to the farm, and she only gave him 
a finger in farewell. Nor did she say a word of what 
had happened, even to Nelly. 

Nelly spent again a very wakeful night. Farrell 
had walked home with them, and she understood 
from him that, although he was going over early to 



326 'MISSING' 

Carton the following morning, he would be at the 
cottage again before many days were over. It 
seemed to her that in telling her so he had looked at 
her with eyes that seemed to implore her to trust 
him. And she, on hearing it, had been merely dumb 
and irresponsive, not forbidding or repellent, as she 
ought to have been. The courage to wound him to 
the quick to leave him bereft, to go out into the 
desert herself, seemed to be more and more oozing 
away from her. 

Yet there beside her bed, on the table which held 
her Testament, and the few books almost all given 
her by W. F. to which she was wont to turn in her 
wakeful hours, was George's photograph in uniform. 
About three o'clock in the morning she lit her candle, 
and lay looking at it, till suddenly she stretched out 
her hand for it, kissed it repeatedly, and putting it 
on her breast, clasped her hands over it, and so fell 
asleep. 

But before she fell asleep, she was puzzled by the 
sounds in Bridget's room next door. Bridget seemed 
to be walking about pacing up and down inces- 
santly. Sometimes the steps would cease; only to 
begin again after a while with the same monotony. 
What could be the matter with Bridget? This vague 
worry about her sister entered into and heightened 
all Nelly's other troubles. Yet all the same, in the 
end, she fell asleep; and the westerly wind blowing 
over Wetherlam, and chasing wild flocks of grey 



'MISSING' 327 

rain-clouds before him, found no one awake in the 
cottage or the farm to listen to the concert he was 
making with the fells, but Bridget and Cicely. 

Bridget Cookson had indeed some cause for wake- 
fulness. Locked away in the old workbox, where she 
kept the papers to which she attached impor- 
tance, was a letter bearing the imprint * O.A.S.,' 
which had been delivered to her on Sunday after- 
noon by the Grasmere postmistress. It ran as 
follows : 

* DEAR Miss COOKSON, I know of course that 
you are fully convinced the poor fellow we have here 
in charge has nothing to do with your brother-in- 
iaw. But as you saw him, and as the case may throw 
light on other cases of a similar nature, I thought I 
would just let you know that owing apparently to 
the treatment we have been carrying out, there are 
some very interesting signs of returning conscious- 
ness since your visit, though nothing very definite as 
yet. He is terribly ill, and physically I see no chance 
for him. But I think he may be able to tell us who 
he is before the end, in which case I will inform you, 
lest you should now or at any future time feel the 
smallest misgiving as to your own verdict in the mat- 
ter. This is very unlikely, I know, for I under- 
stand you were very decided ; but still as soon as we 
have definite information if we get it you may 
wish to inform poor Mrs. Sarratt of your journey 



328 'MISSING' 

here. I hope she is getting stronger. She did indeed 
look very frail when I saw her last. 

* Yours very truly, 

1 ROBERT HOWSON.' 

Since the receipt of that letter Bridget's reflections 
had been more disagreeable than any she had yet 
grappled with. In Nelly's company the awfulness of 
what she had done did sometimes smite home to her. 
Well, she had staked everything upon it, and the 
only possible course was to brazen it out. That 
George should die, and die quickly without any re- 
turn of memory or speech, was what she terribly and 
passionately desired. In all probability he would die 
quickly; he might even now be dead. She saw the 
thing perpetually as a race between his returning 
mind if he still lived, and it was returning and his 
ebbing strength. If she had lived in old Sicilian 
days, she would have made a waxen image like the 
Theocritean sorceress, and put it by the fire, that as 
it wasted, so George might waste. As it was, she 
passed her time during the forty-eight hours after 
reading Howson's letter in a silent and murderous 
concentration on one thought and wish George Sar- 
ratt's speedy death. 

What a release indeed for everybody! if people 
would only tell the truth, and not dress up their real 
feelings and interests in stale sentimentalisms. Far- 
rell made happy at no very distant date ; Nelly settled 
for life with a rich man who adored her; her own 



'MISSING* 329 

future secured with the very modest freedom and 
opportunity she craved: all this on the one side * 
futile tragedy and suffering on the other. None the 
less, there were moments when, with a start, she 
realised what other people might think of her con- 
duct. But after all she could always plead it was a 
mistake an honest mistake. Are there not con- 
stantly cases in the law courts, which shew how easy 
it is to fail in identifying the right person, or to per- 
sist in identifying the wrong one ? 

During the days before Farrell returned, the two 
sisters were alone together. Bridget would gladly 
have gone away out of sight and hearing of Nelly. 
But she did not dare to leave the situation above 
all, the postman unwatched. Meanwhile Nelly 
made repeated efforts to break down the new and 
inexplicable barrier which seemed to have arisen be- 
tween herself and Bridget. Why would Bridget 
always sit alone in that chilly outside room, which 
even with a large fire seemed to Nelly uninhabitable? 
She tried to woo her sister, by all the small devices 
in her power. 

' Why won't you come and sit with me a bit, 
Bridget? I'm so dull all alone!' she would say 
when, after luncheon or high tea, Bridget showed 
signs of immediately shutting herself up again. 

4 1 can't. I must do some work.' 

' Do tell me what you're doing, Bridget? * 

* Oh, you wouldn't understand.' 

1 Well, other people don't always think me a born 



330 MISSING ' 

idiot! ' Nelly would say, not without resentment 
* I really could understand, Bridget, if you'd try.' 

' I haven't the time.' 

1 And you're killing yourself with so many hours 
of it. Why should you slave so? If you only would 
come and help me sometimes with the Red Cross 
work, I'd do any needlework for you, that you 
wanted.' 

' You know I hate needlework.' 

1 You're not doing anything not anything for 
the war, Bridget 1 ' Nelly would venture, wistfully, at 
last. 

* There are plenty of people to do things for the 
war. I didn't want the war! Nobody asked my 
opinion.' 

And presently the door would shut, and Nelly 
would be left to watch the torrents of rain outside, 
and to endeavour by reading and drawing, by needle- 
work and the society of her small friend Tommy, 
whenever she could capture him, to get through the 
day. She pined for Hester, but Hester was doing 
Welfare work in a munition factory at Leeds, and 
could not be got at. 

So there she sat alone, brooding and planning, too 
timid to talk to Bridget of her own schemes, and, in 
her piteous indecision, longing guiltily for Farrell's 
return. Meanwhile she had written to several ac- 
quaintances who were doing V.A.D. work in various 
voluntary hospitals, to ask for information. 

Suddenly, after the rain came frost and north 



'MISSING' 33i 

wind finally snow; the beginning in the north of 
the fiercest winter Western Europe has known for 
many years. Over heights and dales alike spread 
the white Leveller, melting by day in the valley bot- 
toms, and filling up his wastage by renewed falls at 
night. Nelly ventured out sometimes to look at the 
high glories of Wetherlam and the Pikes, under occa- 
sional gleams of sun. Bridget never put a foot out 
of doors, except when she went to the garden gate to 
look for the postman in the road, and take the letters 
from him. 

At last, one evening, when after a milder morning 
a bitter blast from the north springing up at dusk 
had, once more, sent gusts of snow scudding over the 
fells, Nelly's listening ear heard the well-known step 
at the gate. She sprang up with a start of joy. She 
had been so lonely, so imprisoned with her own sad 
thoughts. The coming of this kind, strong man, so 
faithful to his small friend through all the stress of 
his busy and important life, made a sudden impres- 
sion upon her, which brought the tears to her eyes. 
She thought of Carton, of its splendid buildings, and 
the great hospital which now absorbed them; she 
seemed to see Farrell as the king of it all, the fame 
of his doings spreading every month over the north, 
and wiping out all that earlier conception of him as a 
dilettante and an idler of which she had heard from 
Hester. And yet, escaping from all that activity, 
that power, that constant interest and excitement, 
here he was, making use of his first spare hour to 



332 * MISSING' 

come through the snow and the dark, just to spend an 
hour with Nelly Sarratt, just to cheer her lonely little 
life. 

Nelly ran to the window and opened it. 

' Is that really you ? ' she called, joyously, while 
the snow drifted against her face. 

Farrell, carrying a lantern, was nearing the porch. 
The light upon his face as he turned shewed her his 
look of delight. 

Tm later than I meant, but the roads are awful. 
May I walk in?' 

She ran down to meet him ; then hung back rather 
shyly in the passage, while he took off his overcoat 
and shook the snow from his beard. 

1 Have you any visitors ? ' he asked, still dusting 
away the snow. 

' Only Bridget. I asked Hester, but she couldn't 
come.' 

He came towards her along the narrow passage, 
to the spot where she stood tremulous on the lowest 
step of the stairs. A lamp burning on a table re- 
vealed her slight figure in black, the warm white of 
her throat and face, the grace of the bending head, 
and the brown hair wreathed about it. He saw her 
as an exquisite vision in a dim light and shade. But 
it was not that which broke down his self-control so 
much as the pathetic look in her dark eyes, the look 
of one who is glad, and yet shrinks from her own 
gladness tragically conscious of her own weakness, 
and yet happy in it. It touched his heart so pro- 



'MISSING' 333 

foundly that whether the effect was pain or pleasure 
he could not have told. But as he reached the step, 
moved by an irresistible impulse, he held out his 
arms, and she melted into them. For one entrancing 
instant, he held her close and warm upon his breast, 
while the world went by. 

But the next moment she had slipped away, and 
was sitting on the step, her face in her hands. 

He did not plead or excuse himself. He just stood 
by her endeavouring to still and control his pulses 
till at last she looked up. The lamp shewed her his 
face, and the passion in it terrified her. For there 
had been no passion in her soft and sudden yielding. 
Only the instinct of the child that is forsaken and 
wants comforting, that feels love close to it, and 
cannot refuse it. 

' There, you see I ' she said, desperately ' You 
see I must go ! ' 

* No ! It's I who must go. Unless ' his voice 
sank almost to a whisper ' Nelly ! couldn't you 
marry me? You should never, never regret it.' 

She shook her head, and as she dropped her face 
again in her hands he saw a shudder run through 
her. At the sight his natural impulse was to let pas- 
sion have its way, to raise her in his arms again, and 
whisper to her there in the dark, as love inspired 
him, his cheek on hers. But he did not venture. He 
was well aware of something intangible and incal- 
culable in Nelly that could not be driven. His fear 
of it held him in check. He knew that she was 



334 ' MISSING' 

infinitely sorry for him and tender towards him. 
But he knew too that she was not in love with him. 
Only he would take his chance of that, if only she 
would marry him. 

' Dear ! ' he said, stooping to her, and touching 
her dark curls with his hand. ' Let's call in Hester ! 
She's dreadfully wise ! If you were with her I should 
feel happy I could wait. But it is when I see you 
so lonely here and so sad nobody to care for 
you ! that I can't bear it ! ' 

Through the rush of the wind, a sound of some- 
one crossing the yard behind the farm came to 
their ears. Nelly sprang to her feet and led the 
way upstairs. Farrell followed her, and as they 
moved, they heard Bridget open the back door and 
come in. 

The little sitting-room was bright with lamp and 
fire, and Farrell, perceiving that they were no longer 
to be alone, and momentarily expecting Bridget's 
entrance, put impatience aside and began to talk of 
his drive from Carton. 

1 The wind on Dunmail Raise was appalling, and 
the lamps got so be-snowed, we had to be constantly 
clearing them. But directly we got down into the 
valley it mended, and I managed to stop at the post- 
office, and ask if there were any letters for you. 
There were two and a telegram. What have I 
done with them ? ' He began to search in his pockets, 
his wits meanwhile in such a whirl that it was diffi- 
cult for him to realise what he was doing. 



'MISSING' 335 

At that point Bridget opened the door. He turned 
to shake hands with her, and then resumed his 
fumbling. 

' I'm sure they did give them to me ' he said, 
in some concern, ' two letters and a telegram.' 

'A telegram!' said Bridget, suddenly, hurrying 
forward, ' it must be for me.' 

She peremptorily held out her hand, and as she 
did so, Nelly caught sight of her sister. Startled out 
of all other thoughts she too made a step forward. 
What was wrong with Bridget? The tall, gaunt 
woman stood there livid, her eyes staring at 
Farrell, her hand unsteady as she thrust it towards 
him. 

' Give me the telegram, please 1 I was expecting 
one,' she said, trying to speak as usual. 

Farrell turned to her in surprise. 

' But it wasn't for you, Miss Cookson. It was for 
Mrs. Sarratt. I saw the address quite plainly. Ah, 
here they are. How stupid of me ! What on earth 
made me put them in that pocket.' 

He drew out the letters and the telegram. Bridget 
said again ' Give it me, please ! I know it's for 
me ! ' And she tried to snatch it. Farrell's face 
changed. He disliked Bridget Cookson heartily, 
mainly on Nelly's account, and her rude persistence 
nettled a temper accustomed to command. He 
quietly put her aside. 

1 When your sister has read it, Miss Cookson, she 
will no doubt let you see it. As it happens, the post- 



336 'MISSING' 

mistress made me promise to give it to Mrs. Sarratt 
myself. She seemed interested I don't know why.' 

Nelly took it. Farrell who began to have some 
strange misgiving stood between her and Bridget. 
Bridget made no further movement. Her eyes were 
fixed on Nelly. 

Nelly, bewildered by the little scene and by 
Bridget's extraordinary behaviour, tore open the 
brown envelope, and read slowly 

* Please come at once. Have some news for you. 
^our sister will explain. Howson, Base Headquar- 
ters, X , France.' 

'Howson?' said Nelly. Then the colour began 
to ebb from her face. ' Dr. Howson? ' she repeated. 
1 What news? What does he mean? Oh! ' the cry 
rang through the room ' it's George! it's George I 
he's found ! he's found ! ' 

She thrust the telegram piteously into Farrell's 
hands. He read it, and turned to Bridget. 

1 What does Dr. Howson mean, Miss Cookson, 
and why does he refer Mrs. Sarratt to you?' 

For some seconds she could not make her pale lips 
reply. Finally, she said 

' That's entirely my own affair, Sir William. I 
shall tell my sister, of course. But Nelly had better 
go at once, as Dr. Howson advises. I'll go and see 
to things.' 

She turned slowly away. Nelly ran forward and 
caught her. 

' Oh, Bridget don't go you mustn't go ! What 



'MISSING' 337 

news is it? Bridget, tell me! you couldn't you 
couldn't be so cruel not to tell me if you knew 
anything about .George 1 ' 

Bridget stood silent. 

* Oh, what can I do what can I do ? ' cried Nelly. 

Then her eyes fell on the letters still in her hand. 
She tore one open and read it with mingled cries 
of anguish and joy. Farrell dared not go near 
her. There seemed already a gulf between her and 
him. 

' It's from Miss Eustace ' she said, panting, as 
she looked up at last, and handed the letter to him 
* it's George he's alive they've heard from France 
i he asks for me but but he's dying.' 

Her head dropped forward a little. She caught 
at the back of a chair, nearly fainting. But when 
Farrell approached her, she put up a hand in pro- 
test. 

4 No, no, I'm all right. But, Bridget, Miss Eus- 
tace says you've actually seen him you've been to 
France. When did you go ? ' 

'About three weeks ago,' said Bridget, after a 
moment's pause. ' Oh, of course I know ' she 
threw back her head defiantly ' you'll all set on me 
you'll all blame me. But I suppose I may be mis- 
taken like anybody else mayn't I? I didn't think 
the man I saw was George I didn't! And what 
was the good of disturbing your mind?' 

But as she told the lie, she told it so lamely and 
unconvincingly that neither of the other two believed 



33$ 'MISSING' 

it for a moment. Nelly stood up tottering but 
mistress of herself. She looked at Farrell. 

* Sir William can you take me to Windermere, 
for the night-train? I know when it goes 10.20. 
I'll be ready by nine.' She glanced at the clock, 
which was just nearing seven. 

( Of course,' said Farrell, taking up his hat. ' I'll 
go and see to the motor. But ' he looked at her 
with entreaty 'you can't go this long journey 
alone ! ' 

The words implied a bitter consciousness that his 
own escort was impossible. Nelly did not notice it. 
She only said impatiently 

' But, of course, I must go alone.* 

She stood silent mastering the agony within 
forcing herself to think and will. When the pause 
was over, she said quietly ' I will be quite ready 
at nine.' And then mechanically ' It's very good 
of you.' 

He went away, passing Bridget, who stood with 
one foot on the fender, staring down into the fire. 

When the outer door had closed upon him, Nelly 
looked at her sister. She was trembling all over. 

'Bridget why did you do it?' The voice was 
low and full of horror. 

1 What do you mean? I made a mistake that's 
all!' 

' Bridget you knew it was George I You couldn't 
be mistaken. Miss Eustace says in the letter ' 
she pointed to it * they asked you about his hands. 



'MISSING' 339 

Do you remember how you used to mock at them? ' 

1 As if one could remember after a year and a 
half!' 

' No, you couldn't forget, Bridget a thing like 
that I know you couldn't. And what made you do 
it ! Did you think I had forgotten George ? ' 

At that the tears streamed down her face, un- 
heeded. She approached her sister piteously. 

' Bridget, tell me what he looked like ! Did you 
speak to him did you see his eyes open? Oh my 
poor George ! and I here never thinking of him ' 
she broke off incoherently, twisting her hands. 
* Miss Eustace says he was wounded in two places 
severely that she's afraid there's no hope. Did 
they say that to you, Bridget tell me! for 
Heaven's sake tell me ! ' 

4 You'll make yourself ill,' said Bridget harshly. 
1 You'd better lie down, and let me pack for you.' 

Nelly laughed out. 

* As if I'd ever let you do anything for me any 
more ! No, that's done with. You've been so accus- 
tomed to manage me all these years. You thought 
you could manage me now you thought you could 
let George die and I should never know and 
you'd make me marry William Farrell. Bridget 
/ hate you! ' 

She broke off, shivering, but resumed almost at 
once ' I see it all I think I see it all. And now 
it's all done for between you and me. If George 
dies, I shall never come back to live with you again. 



340 ' MISSING ' 

You'd better make plans, Bridget. It's over for 
ever.' 

* You don't know what you're saying, now,' said 
Bridget, coldly. 

Nelly did not hear her, she was lost in a whirl of 
images and thoughts. And governed by them she 
went up to Bridget again, thrusting her small white 
face under her sister's eyes. 

* What sort of a room was he in, Bridget? Who 
was nursing him? Are you sure he didn't know 
you? Did you call him by his name? Did you 
make him understand? ' 

' He knew nobody,' said Bridget, drawing back, 
against her will, before the fire in Nelly's wild eyes. 
4 He was in a very good room. There was a nurse 
sitting with him.' 

1 Was he was he very changed? ' 

* Of course he was. If not, I should have known 
him.' 

Nelly half smiled. Bridget could never have 
thought that soft mouth capable of so much scorn. 
But no words came. Then Nelly walked away to a 
drawer where she kept her accounts, her cheque- 
book, and any loose money she might be in possession 
of. She took out her cheque-book and some two or 
three pounds that lay there. 

' If you want money, I can lend you some/ said 
Bridget, catching at the old note of guardianship. 

* Thank you. But I shall not want it.' 

* Nelly, don't be a fool I ' said Bridget, stung at 



^MISSING' 341 

last into speech. * Suppose all you think is true I 
don't admit it, mind but suppose it's true. How 
was I doing such a terrible wrong to you? in the 
eyes, I mean, of sensible people in not disturbing 
your mind. Nobody expected that man I saw to 
know anybody again or to live more than a few 
days. Even if I had been certain and how could I 
be certain? wasn't it reasonable to weigh one thing 
against another? You know very well it's childish 
to ignore it what's been going on here ' 

But she paused. Nelly, writing a letter, was not 
apparently concerned with anything Bridget had been 
saying. It did not seem to have reached her ears. 
A queer terror shot through Bridget. But she dis- 
missed it. As if Nelly could ever really get on with- 
out her. Little, feckless, sentimental thing! 

Nelly finished her letter and put it up. 

1 1 have written to Sir William's agent, Bridget ' 
she said turning towards her sister * to say that I 
give up the farm. I shall pay the servant. Hester 
will look after my things, and send them when I 
want them.' 

'Why Hester?' said Bridget, with something of 
a sneer. 

Nelly did not answer. She put up her letter, took 
the money and the cheque-book and went out of the 
room. Bridget heard her call their one servant, Mrs. 
Dowson, and presently steps ascended the stairs and 
Nelly's door shut. The sound of the shutting door 
roused in her again that avenging terror. Her first 



342 * MISSING ' 

impulse was to go and force herself into Nelly's 
room, so as to manage and pack for her as usual. 
But something stopped her. She consoled herself by 
going down to the kitchen to look after the supper. 
Nelly, of course, must have some food before her 
night journey. 

Behind that shut door, Nelly was looking into the 
kind weather-beaten face of Mrs. Dowson. 

* Mrs. Dowson, I'm going away to-night and I'm 
not coming back. Sir William knows.' 

Then she caught the woman's gnarled hands, and 
her own features began to work. 

' Mrs. Dowson, they've found my husband! Did 
Sir William tell you ? He's not dead he's alive \ 
But he's very, very ill. 1 

* Oh, you poor lamb ! ' cried Mrs. Dowson. ' No 
Sir William tellt me nowt. The Lord be gracious 
to you I ' Bathed in sudden tears, she kissed one of 
the hands that held hers, pouring out incoherent 
words of hope. But Nelly did not cry, and presently 
she said firmly 

* Now, please, you must help me to pack. Sir 
William will be here at nine.' 

Presently all was ready. Nelly had hunted out an 
old grey travelling dress in which George had often 
seen her, and a grey hat with a veil. She hastily put 
all her black clothes aside. 

* Miss Martin will send me anything I want. I 
have asked her to come and fetch my things.' 

* But Miss Cookson will be seein' to that ! ' said 



'MISSING' 343 

Mrs. Dowson wondering. Nelly made no reply. 
She locked her little box, and then stood upright, 
looking round the small room. She seemed to be say- 
ing ' Good-bye ' for ever to the Nelly who had lived, 
and dreamed, and prayed there. She was going to 
George that was all she knew. 

Downstairs, Bridget was standing at the door of 
the little dining-room. * I have put out some cold 
meat for you,' she said, stiffly. * .You won't get any- 
thing for a long time.' 

Nelly acquiesced. She drank some tea, and ate as 
much as she could. Neither she nor Bridget spoke, 
till Bridget, who was at the window looking out 
into the snow, turned round to say * Here's the 
motor.' 

Nelly rose, and tied her veil on closely. Mrs. 
Dowson brought her a thick coat, which had been 
part of her trousseau, and wrapped her in it. 

* You had better take your grey shawl,' said 
Bridget. 

' I have it here, Miss,' said Mrs. Dowson, produc- 
ing it. ' I'll put it over her in the motor.' 

She disappeared to open the door to Sir William's 
knock. 

Nelly turned to her sister. 

' Good-bye, Bridget.' 

Bridget flamed out. 

* And you don't mean to write to me? You mean 
to carry out this absurd plan of separation ! ' 

1 1 don't know what I shall do till I have seen 



344 ' MISSING ' 

George,' said Nelly steadily. * He'll settle for me. 
Only you and I are not sisters any more.' 

Bridget shrugged her shoulders, with some angry 
remark about ' theatrical nonsense.' Nelly went out 
into the passage, threw her arms about Mrs. Dow- 
son's neck, for a moment, and then hurried out 
towards the car. It stood there in the falling snow, 
its bright lights blazing on the bit of Westmorland 
wall opposite, and the overhanging oaks, still heavy 
with dead leaf. Farrell was standing at the door, 
holding a fur rug. He and Mrs. Dowson tucked it 
in round Nelly's small cloaked figure. 

Then without a word, Farrell shut the door of the 
car, and took the seat beside the driver. In another 
minute Bridget was watching the lights of the lamps 
rushing along the sides of the lane, till at a sharp 
bend of the road it disappeared. 

There was a break presently in the snow-fall, and 
as they reached the shores of Windermere, Nelly 
was aware of struggling gleams of moonlight on 
steely water. The anguish in her soul almost re- 
sented the break in the darkness. She was going to 
George; but George was dying, and while he had 
been lying there in his lonely suffering, she had been 
forgetting him, and betraying him. The recollection 
of Farrell's embrace overwhelmed her with a crush- 
ing sense of guilt. George indeed should never 
know. But that made no difference to her own 
misery. 

The miles flew by. She began to think of her 



'MISSING' 

journey, to realise her helplessness and inexperience 
in the practical things of life. She must get her pass- 
port, and some money. Who would advise her, and 
tell her how to get to France under war conditions ? 
Would she be allowed to go by the short sea pas- 
sage ? For that she knew a special permit was neces- 
sary. Could she get it at once, or would she be kept 
waiting in town? The notion of having to wait one 
unnecessary hour tortured her. Then her thoughts 
fastened on Miss Eustace of the Enquiry Ofce r who 
had written her the letter which had arrived simul- 
taneously with Dr. PJowson's telegram. ' Let me 
know if I can be of any use to you, for your journey. 
If there is anything you want to know that we can 
help you in, you had better come straight to this 
office.' 

Yes, that she would do. But the train arrived in 
London at 7 A.M. And she could not possibly see 
Miss Eustace before ten or eleven. She must just 
sit in the waiting-room till it was time. And she 
must get some money. She had her cheque-book and 
would ask Sir William to tell her how to get a cheque 
cashed in London. She was ashamed of her own 
ignorance in these small practical matters. 

The motor stopped. Sir William jumped down, 
but before he came to open the door for her, she saw 
him turn round and wave his hand to two persons 
standing outside the station. They hurried towards 
the motor, and as Nelly stepped down from it, she 
felt herself grasped by eager hands. 



346 ' MISSING ' 

* You poor darling! I thought we couldn't be in 
time. But we flew. Don't trouble about anything. 
We've done it all. 1 

Cicely ! and behind her Marsworth. 
Nelly drew back. 

* Dear Cicely 1 ' she said faintly ' but I can man- 
age I can manage quite well.' 

Resistance, however, was useless. Marsworth and 
Cicely, it seemed, were going to London with her 
Cicely probably to France; and Marsworth had al- 
ready telegraphed about her passport. She would 
have gladly gone by herself, but she finally sur- 
rendered for George's sake, that she might get to 
him the quicker. 

Then everything was done for her. Amid the 
bustle of the departing train, she was piteously aware 
of Farrell, and just before they started, she leant out 
to give him her hand. 

' I will tell George all you have done for me,' she 
said, gulping down a sob. 

He pressed her hand before releasing it, but said 
nothing. What was there to say? Meanwhile, 
Cicely, to ease the situation, was chattering hard, 
describing how Farrell had sent his chauffeur to 
Ambleside on a motor bicycle, immediately after 
leaving Nelly, and so had got a telephone message 
through to Cicely. 

4 We had the small car out and ready in ten min- 
utes, and, by good luck, there was a motor-transport 
man on leave, who had come to see a brother in the 



'MISSING' 347 

hospital. We laid hands on him, and he drove us 
here. But it's a mercy we're not sitting on the Raise ! 
You remember that heap of stones on the top of the 
Raise, that thing they say is a barrow the grave of 
some old British party before the Flood? well, 
the motor gave out there ! Herbert and the chauf- 
feur sat under it in the snow and worked at it. I 
thought the river was coming over the road, and 
that the wind would blow us all away. But it'll be 
all right for your crossing to-morrow the storm 
will have quite gone down. Herbert thinks you'll 
start about twelve o'clock, and you'll be at the 
camp that same night. Oh, isn't it wonderful! * 
isn't it ripping?' cried Cicely under her breath, 
stooping down to kiss Nelly, while the two men 
talked at the carriage window. * You're going to 
get him home ! We'll have the best men in London 
to look after him. He'll pull through, you'll see 
he'll pull through!' 

Nelly sank into a seat and closed her eyes. Cicely's 
talk why did she call Marsworth ' Herbert ' ? 
was almost unbearable to her. She knew through 
every vein that she was going across the Channel 
to see George die. If only she were in time ! if 
only she might hold him in her arms once more! 
Would the train never go? 

Farrell, in spite of snow and storm, pushed his 
way back to Carton that night. In that long motor 
drive a man took counsel with himself on whom the 



348 * MISSING ' 

war had laid a chastening and refining hand. The 
human personality cannot spend itself on tasks of 
pity and service without taking the colour of them, 
without rising insensibly to the height of them. They 
may have been carelessly adopted, or imposed from 
without. But the mere doing of them exalts. As 
the dyer's hand is * subdued to what it works in,' so- 
the man that is always about some generous business 
for his fellow-men suffers thereby, insensibly, a 
change, which is part of the * heavenly alchemy ' for 
ever alive in the world. It was so at any rate with 
William Farrell. The two years of his hospital work 
hard, honest grappling with the problems of 
human pain and its relief had made a far nobler 
man of him. So now, in this solitary hour, he looked 
his trouble courageously, chivalrously in the face. 
The crash of all his immediate hopes was bitter in- 
deed. What matter ! Let him think only of those 
two poor things about to meet in France. 

As to the future, Jta was well awa^e_gLthe_ernjO- 
tional "depths in Nelly's nature. _Geor^e_Sairatt's 
claim upon her life and memory. wouLLnow be dou- 
bly strong. For, with that long _and intinrat_ohr- 
vation of the war which his hospital experience had 
brought him, Farrell was keenly aware of the merci- 
ful fact that the mere distance which, generally 
speaking, the war imposes between the man dying 
on the battle-field and those who love him at home, 
inevitably breaks the blow. The nerves of the 
woman who loses her husband or her son are, at 



'MISSING' 349 

least, not tortured by the actual sight of his wounds 
and death. The suffering is spiritual, and the tender 
benumbing touch of religion or patriotism, or the 
remaining affections of life, has less to fight with 
than when the physical senses themselves are rackect 
with acute memories of bodily wounds and bodily 
death. It is not that sorrow is less deep, or memory 
less tenacious; but both are less ruinous to the per- 
son sorrowing. So, at least, Farrell had often seen 
it, among even the most loving and passionate of 
women. Nelly's renascence in the quiet Westmor- 
land life had been a fresh instance of it; and he 
had good reason for thinking that, but for the tragic 
reappearance of George Sarratt, it would not have 
taken very long, a few months more, perhaps 
before she would have been persuaded to let herself 
love, and be loved again. 

But now, every fibre in her delicate being 
physical and spiritual would be racked by the sight 
of Sarratt's suffering and death. And no doubt 
pure, scrupulous little soul! she would be tor- 
mented by the thought of what had just passed 
between herself and him, before the news from 
France arrived. He might as well look that in the 
face. 

Well ! patience and time there was nothing 
else to look to. He braced himself to both, as he 
sped homeward through the high snowy roads, and 
dropped through sleeping Keswick to Bassenthwaite 
and Carton. Then with the sight of the hospital, 



3so 'MISSING' 

the Red Cross flag drooping above its doorway, as 
he drove up to it, the burden and interest of his 
great responsibilities returned upon him. He 
jumped out to say a few cheery words of thanks to 
his chauffeur, and went on with a rapid step to his 
office on the ground floor, where he found important 
letters and telegrams awaiting him. He dealt with 
them till far into the night. But the thought of 
Nelly never really left him; nor that haunting 
physical memory of her soft head upon his shoulder. 



CHAPTER XVI 

OF the weary hours which intervened between 
her meeting with Cicely and Marsworth at 
Windermere station and her sight of Dr. 
Howson on the rain-beaten quay at Bolougne, Nelly 
Sarratt could afterwards have given no clear ac- 
count. Of all the strings that were pulled, and the 
exalted persons invoked, in order to place her as 
quickly as possible by the side of her dying husband, 
she knew practically nothing. Cicely and Mars- 
worth, with Farrell to help them at the other end 
of a telegraph wire, did everything. Passports 
and special permits were available in a minimum 
of time. In the winter dawn at Euston Station, 
there was the grey-headed Miss Eustace waiting; 
and two famous Army doctors journeyed to Char- 
ing Cross a few hours later, on purpose to warn the 
wife of the condition in which she was likely to 
find her husband, and to give her kindly advice as to 
how she could help him most. The case had al- 
ready made a sensation at the Army Medical Head- 
quarters; the reports on it from France were being 
eagerly followed; and when the young wife ap- 
peared from the north, her pathetic beauty quick- 
ened the general sympathy. Nelly's path to France 
351 



35* ' MISSING ' 

was smoothed in every possible way. No Royalty 
could have been more anxiously thought for. 

But she herself realised scarcely anything about 
it. It was her nature to be grateful, sweet, respon- 
sive; but her gratitude and her sweetness during 
these hours were automatic, unconscious. She was 
the spectator, so to speak, of a moving picture which 
carried her on with it, in which she was merely 
passive. The crowded boat, the grey misty sea, the 
destroyers to right and left, she was aware of them 
in one connection only as part of the process by 
which she and George were to meet again. 

But at last the boat was alongside the quays of 
the French port, and through sheets of rain she 
saw the lights of a climbing town, and the gleaming 
roadways of the docks. Crowds of men in khaki; 
a park of big guns, their wet nozzles glittering 
under the electric lamps overhead; hundreds of 
tethered horses; a long line of motor lorries; the 
scene to her was all a vague confusion, as Cicely, 
efficient and masterful as usual, made a way for 
them both along the deck of the steamer through 
close ranks of soldiers a draft waiting their orders 
to disembark. Then as they stepped on land, per- 
ception sharpened in a moment. A tall man in 
khaki whom she recognised as Dr. Howson 
came eagerly forward. 

'Mrs. Sarratt! I hope you're not too tired. 
Would you rather get some food here, in the town, 
or push on at once ? ' 



'MISSING' 353 

* At once, please. How is he? ' 

A pair of kind grey eyes looked down upon her 



' Very ill, very ill ! but quite sensible. I know 
you will be brave.' 

He carried her along the quay while Cicely was 
taken possession of by a nurse in uniform, who 
talked rapidly in an undertone. 

* I have two cars,' said Howson to Nelly ' You 
and I will go first. Our head Sister, Miss Parrish, 
who has been in charge of the case for so long, will 
bring Miss Farrell.' 

And as they reached the two waiting motors, 
Nelly found her hand grasped by a comely elderly 
woman, in a uniform of grey and red. 

' He was quite comfortable when we left him, 
Mrs. Sarratt. There's a wonderful difference, even 
since yesterday, in his mind. He's beginning to 
remember everything. He knows you're coming. 
He said " Give her my dear love, and tell her I'm 
not going to have my supper till she comes. She 
shall give it me." Think of that I It's like a 
miracle. Three weeks ago, he never spoke, he 
knew nobody.' 

Nelly's white face trembled, but she said nothing. 
Howson put her into the foremost car, and they 
were soon off, threading their way through the busy 
streets of the base, while the Sister followed with 
Cicely. 

* Oh, it was cruel not to let Mrs. Sarratt know 



354 'MISSING' 

earlier ! ' said the Sister indignantly, in answer to a 
hurried question from Cicely as soon as they were 
alone. * She might have had three weeks with him, 
and now there can only be a day or two. What 
was Miss Cookson about? Even if she were just 
mistaken, she might at least have brought her sister 
over to see for herself instead of preventing it by 
every means in her power. A most extraordinary 
woman ! ' 

Cicely felt her way in reply. She really knew 
nothing except what Farrell had been able hurriedly 
to say to Marsworth at Windermere station which 
had been afterwards handed on to her. Farrell him- 
self was entirely mystified. ' The only motive I can 
suggest ' he had said to Marsworth ' is that Miss 
Cookson had an insane dislike of her brother-in-law. 
But, even so, why did she do it ? ' 

Why, indeed? Cicely now heard the whole story 
from her companion; and her shrewd mind very 
soon began to guess at reasons. She had always ob- 
served Bridget's complaisance towards her brother, 
and even towards herself a clumsy complaisance 
which had never appealed at all either to her or 
him. And she had noticed many small traits and 
incidents that seemed to shew that Bridget had re- 
sented her sister's marriage, and felt bitterly that 
Nelly might have done far better for herself. Also 
that there was a strong taste for personal luxury in 
Bridget, which seemed entirely lacking in Nelly. 

* She wanted Willy's money ! ' thought Cicely 



'MISSING' 355 

1 and couldn't get it for herself. So when poor Sar- 
ratt disappeared, she saw a way of getting it through 
Nelly. Not a bad idea ! if you are to have 
ideas of that kind. But then, why behave like 
an idiot when Providence had done the thing for 
you?' 

That was really the puzzle. George Sarratt was 
dying. Why not let poor Nelly have her last weeks 
with him in peace, and then in time marry her 
safely and lawfully to Willy? 

But Cicely had again some inkling of Bridget's 
probable reply. She had not been intimate with 
Nelly for more than a year without realising that 
she was one of those creatures so rare in our mod- 
ern world who do in truth live and die by their 
affections. The disappearance of her husband had 
very nearly killed her. In the first winter after he 
was finally reported as ' Missing believed killed,' 
and when she had really abandoned hope, the slight- 
est accident a bad chill an attack of childish 
illness any further shock might have slit the thin- 
spun life in a few days or weeks. The Torquay 
doctor had told Hester that she was on the brink of 
tuberculosis, and if she were exposed to infection 
would certainly develop it. Since then she had 
gained greatly in vitality and strength. If only Fate 
had left her alone ! ' With happiness and Willy, 
she'd have been all right ! ' thought Cicely, who was 
daily accustomed to watch the effect of mind on body 
in her brother's hospital. But now, with this fresh 



356 * MISSING' 

and deeper tragedy before her tearing at the poor 
little heart crushing the life again out of the frail 
being why, the prospects of a happy ending were 
decidedly less. The odious Bridget might after all 
have acted intelligibly, though abominably. 

As to the history of Sarratt' s long disappearance, 
Cicely found that very little was known. 

' We don't question him,' said the Sister. * It only 
exhausts him; and it wouldn't be any good. He 
may tell his wife something more, of his own accord, 
but we doubt whether he knows much more than he 
told Dr. Howson. He remembers being wounded at 
Loos lying out undiscovered, he thinks for two 
days then a German hospital and a long, long 
journey. And that's practically all. But just lately 
this week, actually!- Dr. Howson has got some 
information, through a family of peasants living near 
Cassel, behind the British lines. They have rela- 
tions across the Belgian border, and gradually they 
have discovered who the man was who came over the 
frontier with Mr. Sarratt. He came from a farm, 
somwhere between Brussels and Courtrai, and now 
they've managed to get a letter through from his 
brother. You know the man himself was shot just as 
they reached the British lines. But this letter really 
tells a good deal. The brother says that they found 
Mr. Sarratt almost dead, and, as they thought, in- 
sane in a wood near their house. He was then 
wearing the uniform of a British officer. They 
guessed he was an escaped prisoner, and they took 



'MISSING' 357 

him in and hid him. Then news filtered through to 
them of two English officers who had made their 
escape from a hospital train somewhere south-west 
of Brussels; one slightly wounded, and one severely; 
the severely wounded man suffering also from shell- 
shock. And the slightly wounded man was shot, 
while the other escaped. The train, it was said, was 
lying in a siding at the time at the further edge of 
the forest bordering their farm. So, of course, they 
identified the man discovered by them as the severely 
wounded officer. Mr. Sarratt must have somehow 
just struggled through to their side of the forest, 
where they found him. 

' What happened then, we can't exactly trace. He 
must have been there all the winter. He was deaf 
and dumb, from nerve-shock, and could give no 
accounrrof himself at all. The men of the farm, two 
unmarried sons, were good to him, but their old 
mother, whose family was German, always hated his 
being there. She was in terror of the German mili- 
tary police who used to ride over the farm, and one 
day, when her sons were away, she took Mr. Sar- 
ratt's uniform, his identification disk, and all the 
personal belongings she could find, and either burned 
or buried them. The sons, who were patriotic Bel- 
gians, were however determined to protect him, 
and no doubt there may have been some idea of a 
reward, if they could find his friends. But they were 
afraid of their tyrannical old mother, and of what 
she might do. So at last they made up their minds 



358 'MISSING' 

to try somehow and get him over the French frontier, 
which was not far off, and through the German 
lines. One of the brothers, whose name was Benoit 
Desalles, to whom they say poor Mr. Sarratt was 
much attached, went with him. They must have had 
an awful time, walking by night, and hiding by day. 
Mr. Sarratt's wounds must have been in a bad state, 
for they were only half healed when he escaped, and 
they had been neglected all the winter. So how he 
dragged himself the distance he did, the doctors can't 
imagine. And the peasants near the frontier from 
whom we have got what information we have, have 
no knowledge at all of how he and his Belgian guide 
finally got through the German lines. But when they 
reached our lines, they were both, as Dr. Howson 
wrote to Miss Cookson, in German uniforms. His 
people suppose that Benoit had stripped some Ger- 
man dead, and that in the confusion caused in the 
German line at a point where it ran through a 
Belgian village by a British raid, at night, they 
got across the enemy trenches. And no doubt Benoit 
had local knowledge which helped. 

1 Then in the No Man's Land, between the lines, 
they were under both shell and rifle-fire, till it was 
seen by our men that Benoit had his hands up, and 
that the other was wounded. The poor Belgian was 
dragging Mr. Sarratt who was unconscious, and at 
last wasn't it ill-luck? just as our men were pull- 
ing them into the trench, Benoit was shot through the 
head by a German sniper. That, at least, is how we 



'MISSING' 359 

now reconstruct the story. As far as Mr. Sarratt 
is concerned, we let it alone. We have no heart to 
worry him. Poor fellow poor, gallant, patient 
fellow!' 

And the Sister's strong face softened, as Bridget 
had seen it soften at Sarratt's bedside. 

'And there is really no hope for him?' asked 
Cicely after a time. The Sister shook her head. 

4 The wounds have never healed and they drain 
his life away. The heart can't last out much longer. 
But he's not in pain now thank God! It's just 
weakness. I assure you, everybody almost in this 
huge camp, asks for him and many pray for him.' 
The Sister's eyes filled with tears. ' And now that 
the poor wife's come in time, there'll be an excite- 
ment ! I heard two men in one of our wards discuss- 
ing it this morning. " They do say as Mrs. Sarratt 
will be here to-day," said one of them. " Well, that's 
a bit of all right, ain't it? " said the other, and they 
both smoked away, looking as pleased as Punch. 
You see Miss Cookson's behaviour has made the 
whole thing so extraordinary.' 

Cicely agreed. 

' I suppose she thought it would be all over in a 
day or two,' she said, half-absently. 

The Sister looked puzzled. 

' And that it would be better not to risk the effect 
on his wife? Of course Mrs. Sarratt does look 
dreadfully delicate. So you don't think it was a mis- 
take? It's very difficult to see how it could be ! The 



360 * MISSING ' 

hands alone one would think that anybody who 
really knew him must have recognised them.' 

Cicely said no more. But she wondered how 
poor Nelly and her sister would ever find it possible 
to meet again. 

Meanwhile, in the car ahead, Howson was gently 
and tenderly preparing the mind of Nelly for her 
husband's state. He described to her also, the first 
signs of Sarratt's returning consciousness the ex- 
citement among his doctors and nurses the anxious 
waiting for the first words the first clear evidence 
of restored hearing. And then, at last, the dazed 
question ' Where am I ? ' and the perplexed effort 
to answer Howson' s * Can you tell us your name 
and regiment? ' 

Howson described the breathless waiting of him- 
self and another doctor, and then the slow coming of 
the words: ' My name is George Sarratt, Lieutenant, 
2 ist Lanchesters. But why ? ' 

A look of bewilderment at nurses and doctors, and 
then again sleep. 

* The next time he spoke, it was quite distinctly 
and of his own accord. The nurse heard him saying 
softly it was in the early morning " I want my 
wife send for her." She told him you had been 
already sent for, and he turned his head round at 
once and went to sleep.' 

Howson could hardly go on, so keenly did he 
realise the presence of the woman beside him. The 
soft fluttering breath unmanned him. But by de- 



'MISSING' 361 

grees Nelly heard all there was to know; especially 
the details of the rapid revival of hearing, speech, 
and memory, which had gone on through the preced- 
ing three days. 

' And what is such a blessing,' said Howson, with 
the cheerfulness of the good doctor ' is that he 
seems to be quite peaceful quite at rest. He's not 
unhappy. He's just waiting for you. They'll have 
given him an injection of strychnine this evening to 
help him through.' 

* How long? ' The words were just breathed into 
the darkness. 

1 A day or two certainly perhaps a week,' he 
said reluctantly. * It's a question of strength. Some- 
times it lasts much longer than we expect.' 

He said nothing to her of her sister's visit. In- 
stinctively he suspected some ugly meaning in that 
story. And Nelly asked no questions. 

Suddenly, she was aware of lights in the darkness, 
and then of a great camp marked out in a pattern of 
electric lamps, stretching up and away over what 
seemed a wide and sloping hillside. Nelly put down 
the window to see. 

4 Is it here?' 
, * No. A little further on.' 

It seemed to her interminably further. The car 
rattled over the rough pavement of a town, then 
through the darkness of woods threading its way 
through a confusion of pale roads until, with a 
violent bump, it came to a stop. 



362 ' MISSING ' 

In the blackness of the November night, the chauf- 
feur, mistaking the entrance to a house, had run 
up a back lane and into a sand-bank. 

' Do you hear the sea ? ' said Howson, as he helped 
Nelly to alight. ' There'll be wind to-night. But 
here we are.' 

She looked round her as they walked through a 
thin wood. To her right beyond the bare trees was 
a great building with a glass front. She could see 
lights within the passing figures of nurses rows of 
beds and men in bed jackets high rooms frescoed 
in bright colours. 

' That used to be the Casino. Now it's a Red 
Cross Hospital. There are always doctors there. 
So when we moved him away from the camp, we 
took this little house close to the Hospital. The 
senior surgeon there can be often in and out. He's 
looking after him splendidly.' 

A small room in a small house, built for summer 
lodgings by the sea; bare wooden walls and floor; 
a stove; open windows through which came the slow 
boom of waves breaking on a sandy shore; a bed, 
and in it an emaciated figure, propped up. 

Nelly, as the door closed behind her, broke into 
a run like the soft flight of a bird, and fell on her 
knees beside the bed. She had taken off her hat and 
cloak. Excitement had kindled two spots of red in 
her pale cheeks. The man in the bed turned his eyes 
towards her, and smiled. 

'Nelly!' 



'MISSING' 363 

Howson and the Sister went on tiptoe through a 
side door into another room. 

4 Kiss me, Nelly!' 

Nelly, trembling, put her soft lips to his. But as 
she did so, a chill anguish struck her the first bitter- 
ness of the naked truth. As yet she had only seen it 
through a veil, darkly. Was this her George this 
ghost, grey-haired, worn out, on the brink of the un- 
known? The old passionate pressure of the mouth 
gone for ever! Her young husband her young 
lover she saw him far back in the past, on Rydal 
lake, the dripping oars in his hand. This was a 
spirit which touched her a spiritual love which 
shone upon her. And she had never yet known so 
sharp an agony. 

So sharp it was that it dried all tears. She knelt 
there with his hands in hers, kissing them, and gaz- 
ing at him. 

' Nelly, it's hard luck! Darling, I'd better have 
been patient. In time, perhaps, I should have come 
back to you. How I got away who planned it I 
don't remember. I remember nothing of all that 
time. But Howson has heard something, through 
some people near Cassel has he told you ? ' 

1 Yes but don't try to remember.' 

He smiled at her. How strange the old sweetness 
on these grey lips! 

'Have you missed me dreadfully? Poor little 
Nelly! You're very pale a little shadow! Dar- 
ling ! I would like to live ! ' 



364 * MISSING ' 

And at that at last the eyes of both, as they 
gazed at each other, filled with tears. Tears for 
the eternal helplessness of man, the * tears of 
things.' 

But he roused himself, snatching still at a little 
love, a little brightness before the dark. The 
strychnine injected had given him strength. 

1 Give me that jelly and the champagne. Feed 
me, Nelly! But have you had any food? ' 

The stress laid on the ' you,' the tone of his voice, 
were so like his old self that Nelly caught her breath. 
A ray of mad hope stole in. She began to feed 
him, and as she did so, the Sister, as though she had 
heard Sarratt's question, came quietly in with a tray 
on which was some food for Nelly, and put it down 
beside her. Then she disappeared again. 

With difficulty, Sarratt swallowed a few mouth- 
fuls of jelly and champagne. Then his left hand * 
the right was helpless made a faint but peremptory 
sign, and Nelly obediently took some food under his 
dimly smiling eyes. 

* I have though of this so often,' he murmured 
' I knew you'd come. It's been like someone walk- 
ing through a dark passage that was getting lighter. 
Only once I had a curious dream. I thought I 
saw Bridget.' 

Nelly, trembling, took away his tray and her own, 
and then knelt down again beside him. She kissed 
his forehead, and tried to divert his thoughts by ask- 



'MISSING' 365 

ing him if he was warm enough. His hands were 
very cold. Should she make up the fire? 

' Oh, no, it's all right. But wasn't it strange ? 
Suddenly, I seemed to be looking at her quite close 
and she at me. And I was worried because I had 
seen her more distinctly than I could remember you. 
Come nearer put your dear head against me. Oh, 
if I could only hold you, as I used to ! ' 

There was silence a little. But the wine had 
flushed him, and when the bloodless lids lifted again, 
there was more life in the eyes. 

* Nelly, poor darling, have you been very lonely? 
Were the Farrells kind to you? ' 

* Yes, George, very kind. They did everything 
everything they could.' 

* Sir William promised me ' he said, gratefully. 
' And where have you been all the time ? At Rydal ? ' 

* No. I was ill after the news came ' 

'Poor Nelly!' 

' And Sir William lent us one of his farms near 
his cottage do you remember? ' 

* A little. That was kind of him very kind. 
Nelly I want to send him a message ' 

' Yes.' 

* Give him my grateful thanks, darling, and - 
and my blessing.' 

Nelly hid her face against him, and he felt the 
convulsion of tearless sobbing that passed through 
her. 

* Poor Nelly ! ' he said again, touching her hand 



366 'MISSING' 

tenderly. Then after another pause * Sit there, 
darling, where I can see you your dear head, and 
your eyes, and your pretty neck. You must go to 
bed soon, you know but just a little while ! Now 
tell me what you have been doing. Talk to me. 
I won't talk. I'll rest but I shall hear. That's so 
wonderful that I can hear you. I've been living in 
such a queer world no tongue no ears no mind, 
hardly only my eyes.' 

She obeyed him by a great effort. She talked to 
him of what, she hardly knew ! about her months 
in London and Torquay about her illness the 
farm Hester Martin and Cicely. 

When she came to speak of her friendship with 
Cicely, he smiled in surprise, his eyes still shut. 

* That's jolly, dearest. You remember, I didn't 
like her. She wasn't at all nice to you once. But 
thank her for me please.' 

* She's here now, George, she brought me here. 
She wouldn't let me come alone.' 

' God bless her ! ' he said, under his breath. * I'll 
see her to-morrow. Now go on talking. You 
won't mind if I go to sleep? They won't let you 
stop here, dear. You'll be upstairs. But you'll come 
early won't you?' 

They gave him morphia, and he went to sleep 
under her eyes. Then the night nurse came in, and 
the surgeon from the hospital opposite, with How- 
son. And Cicely took Nelly away. 

Cicely had made everything ready in the little 



'MISSING' 367 

bare room upstairs. But when she had helped Nelly 
to undress, she did not linger. 

' Knock on the wall, if you want me. It is only 
wood, I shall hear directly.' 

Nelly kissed her and she went. For nothing in her 
tender service that day was Nelly more grateful to 
her. 

Then Nelly put out her light, and drawing up the 
blind, she sat for long staring into the moonlight 
night. The rain had stopped, but the wind was high 
over the sea, which lay before her a tumbled mass of 
waves, not a hundred yards away. To her right was 
the Casino, a subdued light shining through the 
blinds of its glass verandahs, behind which she some- 
times saw figures passing nurses and doctors on 
their various errands. Were there men dying there 
to-night like her George? 

The anguish that held her, poor child, was no sim- 
ple sorrow. Never she knew it doubly now had 
she ceased to love her husband. She had told Farrell 
the truth ' If George now were to come in at that 
door, there would be no other man in the world for 
me ! ' And yet, while George was dying, and at the 
very moment that he was asking for her, she had 
been in Farrell's arms, and yielding to his kisses. 
George would never know; but that only made her 
remorse the more torturing. She could never con- 
fess to him that indeed was her misery. He would 
die, and her unfaith would stand between them for 
ever. 



36 'MISSING' 

A cleverer, a more experienced, a more practical 
woman, in such a case, would have found a hundred 
excuses and justifications for herself that never oc- 
curred to Nelly Sarratt, to this young immature 
creature, in whom the passionate love of her mar- 
riage had roused feelings and emotions, which, when 
the man on whom they were spent was taken from 
her, were still the master-light of all her seeing 
still so strong and absorbing, that, in her widowed 
state, they were like blind forces searching uncon- 
sciously for some new support, some new thing to 
love. She had nearly died for love and then when 
her young strength revived it had become plain that 
she could only live for love. Her hands had met the 
hands seeking hers, inevitably, instinctively. To re- 
fuse, to stand aloof, to cause pain that had been 
the torment, the impossibility, for one who had learnt 
so well how to give and to make happy. There was 
in it no sensual element only Augustine's ' love of 
loving.' Yet her stricken conscience told her that, in 
her moral indecision, if the situation had lasted much 
longer, she had not been able to make up her mind 
to marry Farrell quickly, she might easily have be- 
come his mistress, through sheer weakness, sheer 
dread of his suffering, sheer longing to be loved. 

Explanations and excuses, for any more seasoned 
student of human nature, emerged on every hand. 
Nelly in her despair allowed herself none of them. 
It merely seemed to her, in this night vigil, that she 
was unworthy to touch her George, to nurse him, to 



'MISSING' 369 

uphold him; utterly unworthy of all this reverent 
pity and affection that was being lavished upon her; 
for his sake. 

She sat up most of the night, wrapped in her fur 
cloak, alive to any sound from the room below. And 
about four in the morning, she stole down the stairs 
to listen at his door. There one of the nurses found 
her, and moved with pity, brought her in. They 
settled her in an arm-chair near him; and then with 
the tardy coming of the November day, she watched 
the sad waking that was so many hours nearer death, 
at that moment when man's life is at its wretchedest, 
and all the forces of the underworld seem to be let 
loose upon it. 

And there, for five days and nights, with the brief- 
est possible intervals for food, and the sleep of 
exhaustion 1 , she sat beside him. She was dimly con- 
scious of the people about her, of the boundless 
tenderness and skill that was poured out upon the 
poor sufferer at her side; she did everything for 
George that the nurses could shew her how to do 
it was the one grain of personal desire left in her, and 
doctors and nurses developed the most ingenious 
pity in devising things for her to do, and in letting 
every remedy that soothed his pain, or cleared his 
mind, go, as far as possible, through her hands. And 
there were moments when she would walk blindly 
along the sea beach with Cicely, finding a stimulus 
to endure in the sharpness of the winter wind, or 
looking in vague wonder at the great distant camp, 



370 * MISSING ' 

with its streets of hospitals, its long lines of huts, its 
training-grounds, and the bodies of men at work 
upon them. Here, the war came home to her, as a 
vast machine by which George, like millions of 
others, had been caught and crushed. She shuddered 
to think of it. 

At intervals Sarratt still spoke a good deal, though 
rarely after their third day together. He asked her 
once * Dear, did you ever send for my letter ? ' She 
paused a moment to think. * You mean the letter 
you left for me in case ? ' He made a sign of 
assent, and then smiled into the face bending over 
him. ' Read it again, darling. I mean it all now, as 
I did then.' She could only kiss him softly without 
tears. After the first day she never cried. 

On the last night of his life, when she thought that 
all speech was over, and that she would never hear 
his voice, or see a conscious look, again, he opened 
his eyes suddenly, and she heard ' I love you, 
sweetheart ! I love you, sweetheart ! ' twice over. 
That was the last sound. Towards midnight he died. 

Next morning Cicely wrote to Farrell : 

* We are coming home to-morrow after they bury 
him in the cemetery here. Please get Hester what- 
ever she may be doing to throw it up, and come 
and meet us. She is the only person who can help 
Nelly now for a bit. Nelly pines for Rydal where 
they were together. She would go to Hester's cot- 
tage. Tell Hester. 

'Why, old boy, do such things happen? That's 



'MISSING' 3 7I 

what I keep asking not being a saint, like these 
dear nurses here, who really have been angelic. I 
am the only one who rebels. George Sarratt was so 
patient so terribly patient! And Nelly is just 
crushed for the moment, though I sometimes ex- 
pect to see a strange energy in her before long. But 
I keep knocking my head all day, and part of the 
night the very small part that I'm not asleep- 
against the questions that everybody seems to have 
asked since the world began and I know that I am 
a fool, and go on doing it. 

1 George Sarratt, I think, was a simple Christian, 
and died like one. He seemed to like the Chaplain, 
which was a comfort. How much any of that means 
to Nelly I don't know.' 

She also wrote to Marsworth : 

1 Meet us, please, at Charing Cross. I have no 
spirit to answer your last letters as they deserve. 
But I give you notice that I don't thrive on too sweet 
a diet and praise is positively bad for me. It 
wrinkles me up the wrong way. 

'What can be done about that incredible sister? 
She ought to know that Nelly is determined not to 
see her. Just think! they might have had nearly 
a month together, and she cut it down to five days ! 

(' Dear Herbert, say anything you like, and the 
sweeter the better!) 

4 Yours, 

1 CICELY.' 



CHAPTER XVII 

*TT TELL what news?' said Farrell abruptly. 

y V For Cicely had come into his library 

with a letter in her hand. The library was 
a fine eighteenth-century room still preserved intact 
amid the general appropriation of the big house by 
the hospital, and when he was not busy in his office, 
it was his place of refuge. 

Cicely perched herself on the edge of his writing- 
table. 

' Hester has brought her to Rydal all right,' she 
said cheerfully. 

'How is she?' 

* As you might expect. But Hester says she talks 
of nothing but going to work. She has absolutely 
set her heart upon it, and there is no moving her.' 

' It is, of course, an absurdity,' said Farrell, 
frowning. 

* Absurdity or not, she means to do it, and Hester 
begs that nobody will try to persuade her against it. 
She has promised Hester to stay with her for three 
weeks, and then she has already made her arrange- 
ments.' 

1 What is she going to do?' 
' She is going to a hospital near Manchester. 
They want a V.A.D. housemaid.' 
372 



'MISSING' 373 

Farrell rose impatiently, and stretching out his 
hand for his pipe, began to pace the room, steeped 
evidently in disagreeable reflection. 

' You know as well as I do ' he said at last 
1 that she hasn't the physical strength for it.' 

' Well then she'll break down, and we can put her 
to bed. But try she will, and I entirely approve of 
it,' said Cicely firmly. * Hard physical work till 
you drop till you're so tired, you must go to sleep- 
that's the only thing when you're as miserable as poor 
Nelly. You know it is, Will. Don't you remember 
that poor Mrs. Henessy whose son died here? Her 
letters to me afterwards used to be all about scrub- 
bing. If she could scrub from morning till night, 
she could just get along. She scrubbed herself sane 
again. The bigger the floor, the better she liked it. 
When bedtime came, she just slept like a log. And 
at last she got all right. But it was touch-and-go 
when she left here.' 

' She was a powerfully-built woman,' said Farrell 
gloomily. 

' Oh, well, it isn't always the strapping ones that 
come through. Anyway, old boy, I'm afraid you 
can't do anything to alter it.' 

She looked at him a little askance. It was per- 
fectly understood between them that Cicely was more 
or less acquainted with her brother's plight, and since 
her engagement to Marsworth had been announced 
it was astonishing how much more ready Farrell had 
been to confide in her, and she to be confided in. 



374 'MISSING' 

But for her few days in France, however, with 
Nelly Sarratt, Marsworth might still have had some 
wrestles to go through with Cicely. At the very 
moment when Farrell's telephone message arrived, 
imploring her to take charge of Nelly on her jour- 
ney, Cicely was engaged in fresh quarrelling with her 
long-suffering lover. But the spectacle of Sarratt's 
death, and Nelly's agony, together with her own 
quick divination of Nelly's inner mind, had worked 
profoundly on Cicely, and Marsworth had never 
shewn himself a better fellow than in his complete 
sympathy with her, and his eager pity for the Sar- 
ratts. * I haven't the heart to tease him ' Cicely 
had said candidly after her return to England. 
* He's been so horribly nice to me ! ' And the 
Petruchio having once got the upper hand, the 
Katherine was like her prototype almost over- 
doing it. The corduroy trousers, Russian boots, the 
flame-coloured jersey actually arrived. Cicely looked 
at them wistfully and locked them up. As to the 
extravagances that still remained, in hats, or skirts, 
or head-dressing, were they to be any further re- 
duced, Marsworth would probably himself implore 
her not to be too suddenly reasonable. For, without 
them, Cicely would be only half Cicely. 

But his sister's engagement, perhaps, had only 
made Farrell feel more sharply than ever the col- 
lapse of his own hopes. Three days after Sarratt's 
death Nelly had written to him to give him George's 
dying message, and to thank him on her own account 



'MISSING' 375 

for all that he had done to help her journey. The let- 
ter was phrased as Nelly could not help phrasing 
anything she wrote. Cicely, to whom Nelly dumbly 
shewed it, thought it ' sweet.' But on Farrell's mor- 
bid state, it struck like ice, and he had the greatest 
difficulty in writing a letter of sympathy, such as any 
common friend must send her, in return. Every 
word seemed to him either too strong or too weak. 
The poor Viking, indeed, had begun to look almost 
middle-aged, and Cicely with a pang had discovered 
or fancied some streaks of grey in the splendid red 
beard and curly hair. At the same time her half- 
sarcastic sense perceived that he was far better pro- 
vided than Nelly, with the means of self-protection 
against his trouble. ' Men always are,' thought 
Cicely ' they have so much more interesting things 
to do.' And she compared the now famous hospital, 
with its constant scientific developments, the ever- 
changing and absorbing spectacle of the life within it, 
and Farrell's remarkable position amid its strenuous 
world with poor Nelly's ' housemaiding.' 

But Nelly was choosing the path that suited her 
own need, and in the spiritual world, the humblest 
means may be the best. It was when she was cooking 
for her nuns that some of St. Teresa's divinest 
ecstasies came upon her! Not that there was any 
prospect of ecstasy for Nelly Sarratt. She seemed 
to herself to be engaged in a kind of surgery the 
cutting or burning away of elements in herself that 
she had come to scorn. Hester, who was some- 



376 * MISSING ' 

thing of a saint herself, came near to understanding 
her. Cicely could only wonder. But Hester per- 
ceived, with awe, a fierceness in Nelly a kind of 
cruelty towards herself, with which she knew well, 
from a long experience of human beings, that it was 
no use to argue. The little, loving, easy-going thing 
had discovered in her own gentleness and weakness, 
the source of something despicable that is, of her 
own failure to love George as steadfastly and truly 
as he had loved her. The whole memory-oiJier-mar- 
riage was poisoned for her by this bitter sense that in 
little more than a year after she had lost him, while 
he was actually still alive, and when the law even, 
let alone the highest standards of love, had not re- 
leased her, she had begun to yield to the wooing of 
another man, - Perhaps only chance, under all the 
difficult circumstances of her intimacy with Farrell, 
had saved her from a shameful yielding from dis- 
honour, as well as a broken faith. 

* What had brought it about? ' she asked herself. 
And she asked it with a desperate will, determined to 
probe her own sin to the utmost. * Soft living! ' 
was her own reply moral and physical indolence. 
The pleasure of being petted and spoiled, the readi- 
ness to let others work for her, and think for her, 
what people called her * sweetness ! ' She turned 
upon it with a burning hatred and contempt. She 
would scourge it out of herself. And then perhaps 
some day she would be able to think of George's last 
faint words with something else than remorseful 



'MISSING' 377 

anguish 'I love you, sweetheart! / love you, 
sweetheart! ' 

During the three weeks, however, that she was 
with Hester, she was very silent. She clung to Hes- 
ter without words, and with much less than her usual 
caressingness. She found it was evident a certain 
comfort in solitary walks, in the simple talk of Mrs. 
Tyson, and ' Father Time,' who came to see her, 
and scolded her for her pale cheeks with a disrespect- 
ful vigour which brought actually a smile to her eyes. 
Tommy was brought over to see her; and she sat 
beside him, while he lay on the floor drawing Hoons 
and Haggans, at a great rate, and brimful of fresh 
adventures in 'Jupe.' But he was soon conscious 
that his old playfellow was not the listener she had 
been; and he presently stole away with a wistful look 
at her. 

One evening early in December, Hester coming 
in from marketing in Ambleside, found Nelly, sitting 
by the fire, a book open on her knee, so absorbed in 
thought that she had not heard her friend's entrance. 
Yet her lips seemed to be moving. Hester came 
softly, and knelt down beside her. 

' Darling, I have been such a long time away! ' 

Nelly drew a deep breath. 

4 Oh, no ! I I've been thinking.' 

Hester looked at the open book, and saw that it 
was * The Letters of St. Ignatius ' a cheap copy, 
belonging to a popular theological * Library,' she 
herself had lately bought. 



378 'MISSING' 

{ Did that interest you, Nelly?' she asked, won- 
dering. 

* Some of it ' said Nelly, flushing a little. And 
after a moment's hesitation, she pointed to a passage 
under her hand : 

' For I fear your love, lest it injure me, for it is 
easy to do what you will; but it is difficult for me to 
attain unto God, if ye insist on sparing me.' 

And suddenly Hester remembered that before 
going out she had entreated Nelly to give herself 
another fortnight's rest before going to Manchester. 
It would then be only six weeks since her husband's 
death. c And if you break down, dear,' she had 
ventured ' it won't only be trouble to you but to 
them ' meaning the hospital authorities. Where- 
upon for the first time since her return, Nelly's eyes 
had filled with tears. But she made no reply, and 
Hester had gone away uneasy. 

'Why will you be so hard on yourself?' she 
murmured, taking the lovely childish face in her two 
hands and kissing it. 

Nelly gently released herself, and pointed again, 
mutely, to a passage further on the famous passage 
in which the saint, already in the ecstasy of martyr- 
dom, appeals again to the Christian church in Rome, 
whether he is bound, not to save him from the wild 
beasts of the arena. ' I entreat you, shew not unto 
me an unseasonable love ! Suffer me to be the food 
of wild beasts, through whom it is allowed me to 
attain unto God. I am the corn of God; let me be 



'MISSING > 379 

ground by the teeth of the wild beasts, that I may 
be found the pure bread of Christ. . . . Pardon me 
in this. I know what is expedient for me. I am but 
now beginning to be a disciple.' 

1 Nelly dear what do you mean? * 

A faint little smile crossed Nelly's face. 

' Oh, nothing only ' she sighed again ' It's 
so splendid! Such a will! such a faith! No one 
thinks like that now. No one is willing to be " the 
corn of God." ' 

' Oh, yes they are ! ' said Hester, passionately. 
* There are thousands of men and women in this 
war, who are willing to do everything suffer every- 
thing for others their country their people at 
home.' 

4 Well, then they're happy ! and why hold any- 
one back?' said Nelly, with soft reproach. And 
letting her head drop on Hester's shoulder, she said, 
slowly 

* Let me go, dear Hester let me go I It's 
drudgery I want drudgery' she repeated with in- 
tensity. ' Something that I don't want to do some- 
thing that's against the grain all day long.' Then 
she laughed and roused herself. * Not much likeness 
between me and St. Ignatius, is there? ' 

Hester considered her gravely. 

1 When people like you are wrestling all day and 
every day with something too hard for them, their 
strength gives way. They think they can do it, but 
they can't.' 



380 * MISSING 1 

* My strength won't give way,' said Nelly, with 
quiet conviction. Then, after pausing a moment, she 
said with a strange ardour ' I once heard a story 
a true story of a man, who burnt his own hand off, 
because it had struck his friend. He held it in a 
flame till there was only the burnt stump, and after 
that he forgave himself and could bear to live again/ 

* But whom have you struck, you poor child ! ' 
cried Hester. 

' George! ' ' said Nelly, looking at her with bitterly 
shining eyes. 

Hester's arms enfolded her, and they talked far 
into the night. Before they separated, Hester had 
agreed that the date of Nelly's departure should be 
not postponed, but quickened. 

And during the few remaining days they were to- 
gether, Hester could only notice with growing amaze- 
ment the change in all the small ways and habits that 
had once characterised Nelly Sarratt especially 
since her Torquay illness; the small invalidisms and 
self-indulgences, the dependence on a servant or on 
Bridget. Now the ascetic, penitential passion had 
come upon her; as it comes in different forms, upon 
many a man or woman in the selva oscura of 
their life; and Hester knew that there was no 
resisting it. 

Hester went back to her ' Welfare ' work. Cicely 
travelled between Carton and London, collecting her 
trousseau and declaring that she would be married in 
Lent, whatever people might say. Farrell was deeply 



'MISSING' 381 

engaged in introducing a new antiseptic treatment of 
an extremely costly kind throughout his hospital, in 
watching the results of it, and in giving facilities for 
the study of it, to the authorities and officials of all 
kinds who applied to him. A sorrowful man but a 
very busy one. Marsworth was making his mark in 
the Intelligence Department of the War Office, and 
was being freely named as the head of an important 
Military Mission to one of the Allied Headquarters. 
What would become of Cicely and the wedding, if 
the post were given him, and as was probable at a 
day's warning was not quite clear. Cicely, how- 
ever, took it calmly. ' They can't give us less than 
three hours' notice and if it's after two o'clock, we 
can always get married somehow by five. You 
scurry round, pay fifty pounds, and somebody at 
Lambeth does it. Then I should see him safely 
off in the evening! ' 

Meanwhile Bridget Cookson was living in her 
usual Bloomsbury boarding-house, holding herself 
quite aloof from the idle ways of its inmates, who, 
in the midst of the world-war, were still shopping as 
usual in the mornings and spending the afternoons in 
tea and gossip. Bridget, however, was scarcely em- 
ploying her own time to any greater profit for a 
burdened country. She was learning various lan- 
guages, and attending a number of miscellaneous 
lectures. Her time was fairly full, and she lived in 
an illusion of multifarious knowledge which flat- 
tered her vanity. She was certainly far cleverer 



382 * MISSING' 

and better-educated than the other women of her 
boarding-house; and she was one of those persons 
who throughout life prefer to live with their in- 
feriors. ' The only remedy against a superiority,' 
says some French writer ' is to love it.' But 
Bridget was so made that she could not love it; she 
could only pull it down and belittle it. 

But all the same, Bridget Cookson was no mon- 
ster, though she was probably without feelings and 
instincts that most people possess. She missed Nelly 
a good deal, more than Nelly herself would have 
believed. And she thought now, that she had be- 
haved like a fool in not recognising Sarratt at once, 
and so preserving her influence with her sister. 
Morally, however, she saw no great harm in what 
she had done. It was arguable, at any rate. Every- 
thing was arguable. As to the effect on Nelly of the 
outward and visible facts of Sarratt's death, it seemed 
to have been exactly what she, Bridget, had foreseen. 
Through some Manchester acquaintance she suc- 
ceeded in getting occasional news of Nelly, who was, 
it appeared, killing herself with hard and disagree- 
able work. She heard also from the woman left in 
charge of the Loughrigg farm that all Mrs. Sar- 
ratt's personal possessions had been sent to the care 
of Miss Martin, and that Sir William had shut up 
the cottage and never came there. Sometimes 
Bridget would grimly contrast this state of things 
with what might have happened, had her stroke suc- 
ceeded, and had George died unrecognised. In that 



'MISSING' 383 

event how many people would have been made 
happy, who were now made miserable ! 

The winter passed away, the long and bitter win- 
ter which seemed to sharpen for English hearts and 
nerves all the suffering of the war. On the Somme 
the Germans were secretly preparing the retreat 
which began with the spring, while the British armies 
were growing to their full stature, month by month, 
and England was becoming slowly accustomed to the 
new and amazing consciousness of herself as a great 
military power. And meanwhile death in the 
trenches still took its steady toll of our best and 
dearest; and at sea, while British sea-power pressed 
home its stifling grasp on the life of Germany, the 
submarine made England anxious, but not afraid. 

March shewed some pale gleams of spring, but 
April was one of the coldest and dreariest in the 
memory of living man. The old earth in sympathy 
with the great struggle that was devastating and sear- 
ing her, seemed to be withholding leaf and flower, 
and forbidding the sun to woo her. 

Till the very first days of May! Then, with a 
great return upon herself, Nature flew to work. The 
trees rushed into leaf, and never had there been such 
a glorious leafage. Everything was late, but every- 
thing was perfection. And nowhere was the spring 
loveliness more lovely than in Westmorland. The 
gentle valleys of the Lakes had been muffled in snow 
and scourged with hail. The winter furies had made 
their lairs in the higher fells, and rushed shrieking 



384 * MISSING' 

week after week through delicate and quiet scenes 
not made for them. The six months from November 
to May had been for the dale-dwellers one long 
endurance. But in one May week all was forgotten 
and atoned for. Beauty, * an hourly presence,' 
reigned without a rival. From the purple heights 
that stand about Langdale and Derwentwater, to the 
little ferns and mountain plants that crept on every 
wall, or dipped in every brook, the mountain land 
was all alive and joyful. The streams alone made a 
chorus for the gods. 

Hester, who was now a woman of sixty, had 
reluctantly admitted, by the middle of the month, 
that, after a long winter spent in a munition factory 
and a Lancashire town, employed on the most strenu- 
ous work that she, an honest worker all her life, 
had ever known, a fortnight's holiday was reason- 
able. And she wrote to Nelly Sarratt, just as she 
was departing northwards, to say cunningly that 
she was very tired and run down, and would Nelly 
come and look after her for a little? It was the 
first kindness she had ever asked of Nelly, to whom 
she had done so many. Nelly telegraphed in reply 
that in two days she would be at Rydal. 

Hester spent the two days in an expectation half- 
eager, half-anxious. It had been agreed between 
them that in their correspondence the subject of 
Nelly's health was to be tabooed. In case of a 
serious breakdown, the Commandant of Nelly's hos- 
pital would write. Otherwise there were to be no 



'MISSING' 385 

enquiries and no sympathy. Cicely Marsworth be- 
fore her marriage in early March had seen Nelly 
twice and had reported against the grain that al- 
though ' most unbecomingly thin,' the obstinate little 
creature said she was well, and apparently was well. 
Everybody in the hospital, said Cicely, was at Nelly's 
feet. ' It is of course nonsense for her to lay down 
that she won't be petted, Nature has settled that 
for her. However, I am bound to say it is the one 
thing that makes her angry, and the nurses are all 
amazed at what she has been able to stand. There 
is a half-blind boy, suffering from " shock " in one 
of the wards, to whom they say she has devoted her- 
self for months. She has taught him to speak again, 
and to walk, and the nerve-specialist who has been 
looking after the poor fellow told her he would trust 
her with his worst cases, if only she would come and 
nurse for him. That did seem to please her. She 
flushed up a little when she told me. Otherwise 
she has become horribly Impersonal! Her wings are 
growing rapidly. But oh, Hester, I did and do pre- 
fer the old Nelly to any angel I've ever known. If I 
hadn't married Herbert, I should like to spend all 
my time in tempting her the poor darling! as the 
devil who was such a fool ! tempted St. Anthony. 
I know plenty of saints; but I know only one little, 
soft kissable Nelly. She shan't be taken from us ! ' 
So horribly impersonal! What did Cicely mean? 
Well, Cicely with the object described in full view 
would soon be able to tell her. For the Mars- 



3 86 ' MISSING T 

worths were coming to Carton for a week, before 
starting for Rome, and would certainly come over 
to her to say good-bye. As to William would it 
really be necessary to leave him behind? Nelly must 
before long brace herself to see him again, as an 
ordinary friend. He had meant no harm and done 
no harm poor William! Hester was beginning 
secretly to be his warm partisan. 

Twenty-four hours later, Nelly arrived. As Hes- 
ter received her from the coach, and walked with her 
arm round the tiny waist to the cottage by the bend 
of the river, where tea beside the sun-flecked stream 
was set for the traveller, the older friend was at once 
startled and reassured. Reassured because, after 
these six months, Nelly could laugh once more, and 
her step was once more firm and normal; and 
startled, by the new and lonely independence she 
perceived in her frail visitor. Nelly was in black 
again, with a small black hat from which her widow's 
veil fell back over her shoulders. The veil, the lawn 
collar and cuffs, together with her childish slightness, 
and the curls on her temples and brow that she had 
tried in vain to straighten, made her look like a little 
girl masquerading. And yet, in truth, what struck 
her hostess was the sad maturity for which she 
seemed to have exchanged her old clinging ways. 
She spoke, for the first time, as one who was mistress 
of her own life and its issues; with a perfectly clear 
notion of what there was for her to do. She had 
made up her mind, she told Hester, to take work 



'MISSING' 387 

offered her in one of the new special hospitals for 
nervous cases which were the product of the war. 
' They think I have a turn for it, and they are going 
to train me. Isn't it kind and dear of them? ' 

* But I am told it is the most exhausting form of 
nursing there is,' said Hester wondering. ' Are you 
quite sure you can stand it ? ' 

* Try me ! ' said Nelly, with a strange brightness 
of look. Then reaching out a hand she slipped it 
contentedly into her friend's. ' Hester ! isn't it 
strange what we imagine about ourselves and what 
is really true? I thought the first weeks that I was 
in hospital,.! must break down. I never dreamt that 
anyone could feel so tired so deadly ill and yet 
go on. And then one began, little by little, to get 
hardened, of course I'm only now beginning to feel 
that! and it seems like being born again, with a 
quite new body, that one can make yes, make do 
as one likes. That's what the soldiers tell me about 
their training. And they wonder at it, as I do.' 

* My dear, you're horribly thin,' interrupted 
Hester. 

' Oh, not too thin ! ' said Nelly, complacently. 

Then she lifted up her eyes suddenly, and saw the 
lake in a dazzle of light, and Silver How, all purple, 
as of old; yet another family of wild duck swimming 
where the river issued from the lake; and just be- 
yond, the white corner of the house where she and 
George had spent their few days of bliss. Slowly, 
the eyes filled with brimming tears. She threw off 



3 88 * MISSING ' 

her hat and veil, and slipping to the grass, she laid 
her head against her friend's knee, and there was a 
long silence. 

Hester broke it at last. 

* I want you to come a little way up the fell, and 
look at a daffodil field. We'll leave a message, and 
Cicely can follow us there.' And then she added, 
not without trepidation ' and I asked her to bring 
William, if he had time.' 

Nelly was silent a moment, and then said quietly 

4 Thank you. I'm glad you did.' 

They left the garden and wandered through some 
rocky fields on the side of the fell, till they came to 
one where Linnaeus or any other pious soul might 
well have gone upon his knees for joy. Some loving 
hand had planted it with daffodils the wild Lent 
lily of the district, though not now very plentiful 
about the actual lakes. And the daffodils had come 
back rejoicing to their kingdom, and made it their 
own again. They ran in lines and floods, in troops 
and skirmishers, all through the silky grass, and 
round the trunks of the old knotted oaks, that hung 
as though by one foot from the emerging rocks and 
screes. Above, the bloom of the wild cherries made 
a wavering screen of silver between the daffodils and 
the May sky; amid the blossom the golden-green of 
the oaks struck a strong riotous note ; and far below, 
at their feet, the lake lay blue, with all the sky within 
it, and the softness of the larch-woods on its 
banks. 



'MISSING' 389 

Nelly dropped into the grass among the daffodils. 
One could not have called her the spirit of the spring 
the gleeful, earthly spring as it would have been 
natural to do, in her honeymoon days. And yet, as 
Hester watched her, she seemed in her pale, changed 
beauty to be in some strange harmony with that 
grave, renewing, fruitful heart of all things, whereof 
the daffodils and the cherry-blossom were but 
symbols. 

Presently there were voices beneath them climb- 
ing voices that came nearer of a man and a woman. 
Nelly's hand begun to pluck restlessly at the grass 
beside her. 

Cicely emerged first, Cicely in white, very bridal, 
and very happy. Very conscious too, though she 
did not betray it by a movement or a look, of the 
significance of this first meeting, since Sarratt's death, 
between her brother and Nelly. But they met very 
simply. Nelly went a little way down the steep to 
meet them. She kissed Cicely, and gave Farrell her 
hand. 

* It was very good of you to come.' 

But then it seemed to Hester, who could not help 
watching it, that Nelly's face, as she stood there look- 
ing gravely at Farrell, shewed a sudden trouble and 
agitation. It was gone very quickly, however, and 
she and he walked on together along a green path 
skirting the fells, and winding through the daffodils 
and the hawthorns. 

Cicely and Hester followed, soon perceiving that 



390 ' MISSING ' 

the two ahead had slipped into animated conversa- 
tion. 

'What can it be about?' said Cicely, in Hester's 
ear. 

' I heard the word " Charcot," ' said Hester. 

The bride listened deliberately. 

4 And William's talking about an article in the 
Lancet he's been boring Herbert and me with, by 
that very specialist that Nelly's so keen about, the 
man that is going to have her trained to nurse his 
cases. Something about the new treatment of 
" shock." I say, Hester, what an odd sort of fresh 
beginning ! ' 

Cicely turned a look half grave, half laughing 
on her companion adding hastily 

'The specialist's married!' 

Hester frowned a little. 

1 Beginning of what? ' 

1 Oh, I don't know,' said Cicely, with a shrug, 
1 But life is long, Mademoiselle Hester, and now 
they've got a common interest outside themselves. 
They can talk about things not feelings. Good- 
ness! did you hear that? William is head over 
ears in his new antiseptic and look at Nelly she's 
quite pink! That's what I meant by her being 
horribly impersonal. She used the word " scientific " 
to me, three times, when I went to see her Nelly! ' 

' If she's impersonal, I should doubt whether Wil- 
liam is,' said Hester drily. 

* Ah, no poor Willy I ' was Cicely's musing reply. 



< MISSING' 391 

1 It's a hard time for him. I don't believe she's ever 
out of his mind. Or at least, she wouldn't be, if it 
weren't for his work. That's the blessed part for 
both of them. And now you see it gives them such 
a deal to talk about' her gesture indicated the 
couple in front. * It's like two sore surfaces, isn't 
it, that mustn't touch you want something between.' 
' All the same, William mustn't set his heart ' 

* And Hester dear old thing ! mustn't preach ! ' 
said Cicely laughing, and pinching her cousin's arm. 
* What's the good of saying that, about a man like 
William, who knows what he wants? Of course he's 
set his heart, and will go on setting it. But he'll 
wait as long as she likes.' 

1 It'll be a long time.' 

* All right ! They're neither of them Methuselahs 
yet. Heavens! What are they at now? Ambrine! 
she's talking to him.' 

But some deep mingled instinct, at once of sym- 
pathy with Nelly and pity for Farrell, made Hester 
unwilling to discuss the subject any more. George's 
death was too recent; peace and a happy future too 
remote. So she turned on Cicely. 

' And please, what have you done with Herbert? 
I was promised a bridegroom.' 

1 Business ! ' said Cicely, sighing. * We had hardly 
arrived for our week's leave, when the wretched War 
Office wired him to come back. He went this morn- 
ing, and I wanted to go too, but I'm not to racket 
just now.' 



392 'MISSING' 

Cicely blushed, and Hester, smiling, pressed her 
hand. 

* Then you're not going to Rome? * 

* Certainly I am ! But one has to give occasional 
sops to the domestic tyrant.' 

They sauntered back to tea in Hester's garden by 
the river, and there the talk of her three guests was 
more equal and unfettered, more of a real inter- 
change, than Hester ever remembered it. Of old, 
Farrell had been the guardian and teacher, indoc- 
trinating Nelly with his own views on art, reading 
to her from his favourite poets, or surrounding her 
in a hundred small matters with a playful and de- 
voted homage. But now in the long wrestle with her 
grief and remorse, she had thought, as well as felt. 
She was as humble and simple as ever, but her com- 
panions realised that she was standing on her own 
feet. And this something new in her which was 
nothing but a strengthened play of intelligence and 
will had a curious effect on Farrell. It seemed to 
bring him out, also; so that the nobler aspects of his 
life, and the nobler proportions of his character 
shewed themselves, unconsciously. Hester, with 
anxious joy, guessed at the beginnings of a new moral 
relation, a true comradeship, between himself and 
Nelly, such as there had never yet been which 
might go far. It masked the depths in both of them ; 
or rather it was a first bridge thrown over the chasm 
between them. What would come of it? 

Again she rebuked herself even for the question. 



'MISSING' 393 

But when the time for departure came, and Nelly 
took Cicely into the house to fetch the wraps which 
had been left there, Farrell drew his chair close to 
Hester's. She read agitation in his look. 

1 So she's actually going to take up this new 
nursing? She says she is to have six months' 
training.' 

1 Yes don't grudge it her ! ' 

Farrell was silent a moment, then broke out 

' Did you ever see anything so small and trans- 
parent as her hands are? I was watching them as 
she sat there.* 

' But they're capable ! ' laughed Hester. ' You 
should hear what her matron says of her.' 

Farrell sighed. 

* How much weight has she lost? ' 

* Not more as yet than she can stand. There's 
an intense life in her a spiritual life that seems to 
keep her going.' 

' Hester dear Hester watch over her ! ' 
He put out a hand and grasped his cousin's. 

* Yes, you may trust me.' 

* Hester ! do you believe there'll ever be any 
hope for me? ' 

' It's unkind even to think of it yet,' she said 
gravely. 

He drew himself up, recovering self-control. 

* I know I know. I hope I'm not quite a fool 1 
And indeed it's better than I thought. She's not 
going to banish me altogether. When this new hos- 



394 ' MISSING ' 

pital's open in another month or so and she's set- 
tled there she asks me to call upon her. She 
wants me to go into this man's treatment.' There 
was a touch of comedy in the words; but the emotion 
in his face was painful to see. 

* Good ! ' said Hester, smiling. 

When the guests were gone, Nelly came slowly 
back to Hester from the garden gate. Her hands 
were loosely clasped before her, her eyes on the 
ground. When she reached Hester she looked 
up and Hester saw that her eyes were full of 
tears. 

* He'll miss her very much,' she said, sadly. 
'Cicely?' 

' Yes she's been a great deal more to him lately 
than she used to be.' 

Nelly stood silently looking out over the lake for 
a while. In her mind and Hester's there were 
thoughts which neither could express. Suddenly, 
Nelly turned to Hester. Her voice sounded strained 
and quick. * I never told you on my way here, I 
went to see Bridget.' 

Hester was taken by surprise. After a moment's 
silence she said 

' Has she ever repented ever asked your forgive- 
ness?' 

Nelly shook her head. 

' But I think she would be sorry if she could. 
I shall go and see her sometimes. But she doesn't 
want me. She seems quite busy and satisfied/ 



'MISSING' 395. 

' Satisfied ! ' said Hester, indignantly. 

1 1 mean with what she is doing with her way 
of living.' 

There was silence. But presently there was a 
stifled sob in the darkness; and Hester knew that 
Nelly was thinking of those irrecoverable weeks of 
which Bridget's cruelty had robbed her. 

Then presently bedtime came, and Hester saw 
her guest to her room. But a little while after, as 
she was standing by her own window she heard the 
garden door open and perceived a small figure slip- 
ping down over the lawn a shadow among shadows 
towards the path along the lake. And she guessed 
of course that Nelly had gone out to take a last look 
at the scene of her lost happiness, before her de- 
parture on the morrow. 

Only twenty-two with all her life before her 
if she lived I 

Of course, the probability was that she would live 
and gradually forget and in process of time 
marry William Farrell. But Hester could not be 
at all sure that the story would so work out. Sup- 
posing that the passion of philanthropy, or the pas- 
sion of religion, fastened upon her on the girlish 
nature that had proved itself with time to be of so 
much finer and rarer temper than those about her 
had ever suspected? Both passions are absorbing; 
both tend to blunt in many women the natural in- 
stinct of the woman towards the man. Nelly had 
been an old-fashioned, simple girl, brought up in a 



396 ' MISSING ' 

backwater of life. Now she was being drawn into that 
world of the new woman where are women police- 
men, and women chauffeurs, and militant suffragists, 
and women in overalls and breeches, and many other 
strange types. The war has shown us suddenly and 
marvellously the adaptability of women. Would 
little Nelly, too, prove as plastic as the rest, and in 
the excitement of meeting new demands, and reaching 
out to new powers, forget the old needs and sweet- 
nesses? 

It might be so; but in her heart of hearts, Hester 
did not believe it would be so. 

Meanwhile Nelly was wandering through the May 
dusk along the lake. She walked through flowers. 
The scents of a rich earth were in the air; daylight 
lingered, but a full and golden moon hung over 
Loughrigg in the west; and the tranced water of the 
lake was marvellously giving back the beauty amid 
which it lay form, and colour, and distance and 
all the magic of the hour between day and night. 
There was no boat, alack, to take her to the island; 
but there it lay, dreaming on the silver water, with 
a great hawthorn in full flower shewing white upon 
its rocky side. She made her way to the point near- 
est to the island, and there sat down on a stone at the 
water's edge. 

Opposite to her was the spot where she and 
George had drifted with the water on their last night 
together. If she shut her eyes she could see his sun- 
burnt face, blanched by the moonlight, his strong 



< MISSING' 397 

shoulders, his hands which she had kissed lying 
on the oars. And mingling with the vision was that 
other of a grey, dying face, a torn and broken 
body. 

Her heart was full of intensest love and yearning; 
but the love was no longer a torment. She knew now 
that if she had been able to tell George everything, 
he would never have condemned her; he would only 
have opened his arms and comforted her. 

She was wrapped in a mystical sense of com- 
munion with him, as she sat dreaming there. But in 
such a calm and exaltation of spirit, that there was 
ample room besides in her mind for the thought of 
William Farrell her friend. Her most faithful 
and chivalrous friend! She thought of Farrell's 
altered aspect, of the signs of a great task laid upon 
.him, straining even his broad back. And then, of his 
loneliness. Cicely was gone his * little friend ' was 
,one. 

What could she still do for him ? It seemed to her 
tLat even while George stood spiritually beside her, 
in this scene of their love, he was bidding her think 
ki'idly and gratefully of the man whom he had 
blessed in dying the man who, in loving her, had 
meant him no harm. 

Her mind formed no precise image of the future. 
She was incapable, indeed, as yet, of forming any 
that would have disturbed that intimate life with 
George which was the present fruit in her of re- 
morseful love and pity. The spring shores of Rydal, 



398 ' MISSING ' 

the meadows steeping their flowery grasses in the 
water, the new leaf, the up-curling fern, breathed in 
her unconscious ear their message of re-birth. But 
she knew only that she was uplifted, strengthened 
to endure and serve. 



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